The Denver Post
Ronny Flanagan took pride in his record as a police officer in Plano, Texas. He had an incident-free career. He took safety training regularly. He was known at the range as a very good shot.
Yet he killed a man when he was simply trying to press a flashlight switch mounted beneath the trigger on his pistol.
In a deposition, Flanagan expressed his remorse and made a prediction.
"I don't want anyone to ever sit in a chair I'm in right now," he said. "Think about the officers that aren't as well trained, officers that don't take it as seriously, and you put them in a pressure situation, another accident will happen. Not if, but will."
Flanagan was right. Three months after the October 2010 shooting in Plano, a 76-year-old man took a bullet in the stomach from a New York police officer trying to switch on the same flashlight model.
At least three other people in the U.S. over the past nine years have been shot accidentally by police officers with gun-mounted flashlights, an investigation by The Denver Post found. Two victims were fellow officers.
In Colorado, Denver's police chief banned the use of tactical flashlights with switches below the trigger guard after two officers accidentally fired their guns last year.
One of the officers may have shot a suspect when his finger slipped from the flashlight switch to the trigger, firing a bullet into a car window of the fleeing driver.
Other large Colorado police and sheriff's departments contacted by The Post said they have recorded no flashlight-related accidental gunshots. But many have imposed restrictions similar to Denver's.