FBI's Internal Investigations Of Shootings By Agents Clears Agents 98% Of The Time

from the BONUSES-ALL-AROUND! dept

An agency that investigates itself will almost always clear itself. The FBI, which still allows interviews of suspects to be "memorialized" with pen-and-paper recollections by the interviewer, is allowed to handle its own internal investigations of deadly force deployment. Unsurprisingly, FBI agents are rarely found to have acted inappropriately.

New FBI data obtained exclusively by NBC News shows the bureau found fault with the actions of agents five times in 228 shooting incidents from 2011 to the present. Eighty-one were intentional shootings involving people or objects, 34 were intentional shootings of animals, and 113 were accidental discharges.

The large number of cleared incidents quite possibly includes this list of questionable shootings:

  • In August, an FBI agent was acquitted of federal criminal charges that he lied about firing his weapon in a 2016 standoff with right-wing extremists in Oregon. The FBI declined to comment on any disciplinary investigation.

  • In June, an FBI agent — off-duty but armed with a handgun — accidentally shot someone in a Denver nightclub after he did a backflip that dislodged his weapon. He pleaded guilty to third degree assault and was sentenced to two years probation. The FBI would not discuss his status at the bureau.

  • In 2016, an FBI agent shot a 31-year-old man during a military-style raid to serve a warrant on a different person. The FBI says the man was armed; his family, which has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, disputes that and adds that he was blind in one eye and disabled. The FBI declined to comment on the case.

  • In 2015, the FBI terminated an agent who fired his weapon from a second-story apartment in Queens, shooting an unarmed man as he tried to burglarize the agent's car on the street below.

It's impossible to say if any of these might be one of the five incidents the FBI found problematic. The agency refused to comment on any of these shootings when questioned by NBC.

Very little information can be obtained by those seeking to hold the FBI responsible for wounding them or killing their loved ones. Even as the FBI has tentatively encouraged other law enforcement agencies to be more proactive in releasing information about officer-involved shootings, it hasn't applied the same level of transparency to its internal investigations. What has been released is heavily-redacted, giving readers little to work with but a few raw numbers.

This is especially of concern to Junior Valladares, whose father was shot by an FBI agent during a hostage situation in Houston, Texas. His father was the hostage. According to the FBI, an agent poked a gun through a window to try to shoot the man holding Junior's father hostage. The gun was grabbed by someone in the room, resulting in the agent firing two shots into the room. One of those two bullets struck and killed Ulises Valladares, who was tied up on the couch.

The hostage was the only person in the room, and the FBI went on record as stating it was the hostage who grabbed the rifle. It seems like an unlikely thing for a bound hostage to do, but the FBI has stuck to this story. Houston police chief Art Acevedo -- who is dealing with the fallout from a botched raid himself -- stated at a news conference last fall he no longer believes the FBI's narrative. It's unclear what Acevedo has seen that has changed his mind, but at this same news conference he called out the FBI for allowing the investigation to drag on for months, denying Valladares' son any closure.

Law enforcement agencies have proven time and time again they can't be trusted to police themselves. The FBI is no exception.

Filed Under: fbi, internal investigations, shootings


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  1. icon
    radix (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 2:59pm

    accidental discharge

    "Nope, nobody did anything wrong here. Guns just do that sometimes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 3:01pm

    The Dad Changing How We Investigate Police Shootings

    For over a decade, ever since police killed his son, Michael Bell has been trying to get an independent investigation into the shooting — and he's fighting to make sure that every family is entitled to one, whenever police use lethal force.

    https://www.freethink.com/videos/the-dad-changing-how-we-investigate-police-shootings

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 3:11pm

    Someone's got to go under the bus...

    In June, an FBI agent — off-duty but armed with a handgun — accidentally shot someone in a Denver nightclub after he did a backflip that dislodged his weapon. He pleaded guilty to third degree assault and was sentenced to two years probation. The FBI would not discuss his status at the bureau.

    If they're willing to stonewall what should be a trivial answer('The individual in question, upon demonstrating terrible gun-safety, is no longer employed by the agency'), the question becomes, 'What differentiates the five shootings from the others?'...

    According to the FBI, an agent poked a gun through a window to try to shoot the man holding Junior's father hostage. The gun was grabbed by someone in the room, resulting in the agent firing two shots into the room. One of those two bullets struck and killed Ulises Valladares, who was tied up on the couch.

    ... because if 'firing blindly into a room that you believe a hostage is in' is considered acceptable behavior the five 'bad' incidents have got to be either beyond indefensible, or as a possibility, done by agents that were already not liked by the fellow agents and thereby thrown under the bus as a 'look, we can punish misuse of a firearm!' PR stunt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rekrul, 14 Feb 2019 @ 3:33pm

    I have an idea how to get the truth, but it wouldn't be cheap;

    Publish a story which blatantly lies about the FBI in a particular incident and paints them in the worst possible light. When the FBI sues for libel and the case goes to court, the only way for them to prove that the story is false would be to reveal what really happened.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 3:41pm

    Re:

    the only way for them to prove that the story is false would be to reveal what really happened.

    Or spin a tale that paints them in good light, especially as they are often the only witnesses to what actually happened.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re:

    discovery is a thing. just need to get in frint of one of those judges who are unimpressed by obvious bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    TomStone (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 4:57pm

    "Accidental discharges"? That terminology is outdated

    By decades. The correct phrase is "Negligent Discharges" in almost every case. The exception would be the Remington 700 series of rifles which is known to fire at times when the safety is released. Or, very occasionally a pistol will fire when it is dropped although this is an extremely rare occurrence and usually involves a user modified firearm that has become mechanically unsafe. 113 " Accidental Discharges" should have led to a large number of agents being discharged.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 5:55pm

    If they can't handle guns safely...

    they shouldn't have them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:25pm

    what causes corruption?

    "Law enforcement agencies have proven time and time again they can't be trusted to police themselves. The FBI is no exception."

    a

    Hmmm, so American citizens can't really trust the police at any level of their government.

    therefore, they can't trust their elected officials and courts who are supposed to supervise the police, but obviously fail at that duty.

    b

    What's the broad conclusion that citizens should draw about the basic nature of their government and its dangers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:34pm

    Re: what causes corruption?

    and yea Gun Control will save us all when only the corrupt and criminal have guns .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:35pm

    Re: Re: what causes corruption?

    The only gun control should be hitting the target your aiming at

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:40pm

    Re:

    "Your gun went off accidentally?"

    "Yep."

    "But you had to reload three times!"

    "It's a really faulty gun."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Re: what causes corruption?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 9:48pm

    Re: what causes corruption?

    The conclusion is that unless citizens apply precisely the same standards as law enforcement officers against said agencies, the abuse and degeneration of this country into a tinpot regime is completely assured.

    There's a reason they always deliberately skip over questions of dealing with mental health, gun safety and societal issues that lead to tragedies and go straight for "get the population to demand it be disarmed". Most of the most horrifying behavior seen by cops against civilians has been on folks they knew for certain to be unarmed, like the one guy they had crawling in a lethal game of simon-says in his skivies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Peter (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 12:46am

    Just wondering ...

    It used to be common practice to open an investigation after every shooting, suspicion of wrongdoing or not. After all, someone had been injured or worse, and deserved at least someone looking into the circumstances.

    If the FBI still investigates every incident where a shot has been fired, a 98 % clearance rate might actually be good news - even if the odd shooter gets whitewashed when they'd deserve to go to jail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 4:01am

    Its awesome we keep having these barrels that allow the few bad apples to ruin the entire crop. Perhaps we need to look at a different container so we can see the apples going bad and remove them before all of the apples are engaged in trying to keep the image of apples defending us from doctors as they insist we keep the ones rotting & covered in mold or the doctors will win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 5:56am

    Nature

    Is it not in the nature of all creatures to attack (perceived) weakness?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 6:56am

    Re: "Accidental discharges"? That terminology is outdated

    More to the point, and AD is a determination after an investigation.

    They're playing with numbers. Again...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 6:57am

    Re: "Accidental discharges"? That terminology is outda

    "Negligent Discharges" ... this is what it should be called.

    I do not believe any of the "I was cleaning my gun" stories/excuses for the firing of a weapon. The first thing one does when picking up a weapon prior to cleaning it is to unload.

    Also, some people think it is ok to walk around with one in the chamber, cocked and ready to go. This is not smart. Even in the old wild west where anything goes, many left one cylinder empty just in case the hammer was hit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 7:01am

    Re: what causes corruption?

    The subject of your post is: "what causes corruption?" and you did not address your own question ... why?

    and then you attempt to disparage the general public for the actions of a few assholes - why?

    I think your point is .... ummm, well I have no idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 7:11am

    And yet when Trump criticizes the FBI, it is obstruction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    TFG, 15 Feb 2019 @ 7:42am

    Re:

    When he is the one under investigation, yes. It can be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re: "Accidental discharges"? That terminol

    Yes, many very old revolvers could discharge if the hammer was forcibly struck while a round is in the chamber. If you have one of these relics, you should absolutely not carry it with a round in the top chamber of the cylinder.

    However, almost all modern firearms (for more than a century) have some form drop safety. This means if the hammer/striker falls without the trigger being pulled, it will not fire.

    While there are some single-action firearms still being actively carried (the last few 1911 holdouts) the vast majority are double-action, which means pulling the trigger cocks the hammer (or primes the striker) just before firing. So 'one in the chamber, cocked and ready to go' is the default state for nearly all firearms. If there's not a round in the chamber, the weapon isn't loaded. And if you're in a situation where you need a weapon, you probably want it to be loaded.

    All that said, in every example listed in the article, the firearm operator pulled the trigger. Even in the nightclub, the pistol didn't fire when it hit the ground, it fired when the agent scrabbled to pick it up and pulled the trigger while doing so.

    Negligence, every time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Re: "Accidental discharges"? T

    Although I agree with everything you typed, I doubt that the average person, who lacks proper experience, should be mimicking the practices of law enforcement and/or armed services.

    Even those with adequate experience, read trigger discipline, should avoid the possibility. If I were to be at a firing range and witnessed such behavior I would pack it up and leave.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: "Accidental discharges&quot

    Agreed. Shooting like law enforcement means you'll miss a LOT and take out quite a few bystanders...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    Excuse me, but Donald was not criticizing the FBI for the items mentioned in this post. Rather he was criticizing the FBI because they were doing their jobs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 11:19am

    Re: Re: Re: what causes corruption?

    Are you seriously using The Onion to back up some position of yours?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    Thad (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: what causes corruption?

    You don't think satire can be used to make a point about a political topic?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 12:22pm

    Late 2010s gun nuts vs. late 1970s gun nuts

    As a kid I had family and friends of family who enjoyed shooting (some of them hunted, and I think there was at least one ex-MP among them) and they had some pretty solid gun safety habits. It'd remind me later of power-tool protocols, in which weapons / tools are safetied and secured until they're immediately ready for use, and generally not pointed at something you don't want to auger.

    We also knew that in a hypothetical home-invader / robber / burglar situation, you wanted to shoot him so he landed inside the house. That way, you see, the murder is much easier to justify. (No one I know ever had to put this lore to practice.)

    Recent gun culture is scary by comparison

    To be fair, I only hear rumors and stories of loaded guns left on coffee tables and people shooting casually while inebriated. Still, our history of police-involved shootings is conspicuously dark (intentionally unrecorded) since the early 20th century, despite a Congressional mandate, and now we rely on news agencies to track when a police officer harms or kills someone.

    And we really need to start presuming that dark spots in our archived records indicate hidden wrongdoing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 12:26pm

    The broad conclusion

    That government (or really, any authority) is untrustworthy even if necessary for organization, and that we need a transparency trail and redundant watchdogs to keep corruption and neglect at bay.

    Granted, this kind of system may prove ultimately too expensive, but it's harder to say if it's more expensive then letting corruption go unchecked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 12:29pm

    "A living being seeks above all else to discharge it's strength"

    In the natural order, yes.

    Among highly social creatures such as humans, jungle law is seen as grotesque, partially because our strength comes from our ability to organize into an internally self supporting society. If we let the strong prey on the meek within our civilization, that is a weakness of the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2019 @ 12:16am

    Re: Nature

    Except, you know, the weakest most backstabby lot declare it illegal, and decades of propaganda convince people that "violence is never the answer".

    It's "never the answer" and "you must trust the system" when begging for your life while in your underwear in a hallway gets someone killed by people who use violence against the unarmed as both a hobby and career. It's "never the answer" and "you must trust the system" when someone is tazed 11 times entirely for the pleasure of the ones doing the tazing for whom violence against the unarmed is both their hobby and career. It's "never the answer" and "you must trust the system" when yet another person is summarily executed for having shown the back of their head and the criminal declares "he believed he was fearing for his life" in the most templated call-center way possible... and then gets to simply walk.

    The problem lies in the threat of complete retaliation by the resources of an entire nation for the crime of defending oneself against those who wear the proper badge. They are not 'the strong', but they prey on the weak both through parasitical means AND by hiding behind a whole country when someone tries to fight back against them.

    Being the representatives and enforcers of "the law" themselves, it is impossible to legally obtain redress, let alone prevent such abuses from continuing. Of course, armed revolts have always been illegal in the eyes of those whose abuses caused them to erupt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2019 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: what causes corruption?

    It's almost like a silly satire website has a more coherent argument than the person arguing that we shouldn't have laws because people break laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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