I'm amazed that this doesn't happen more often: all 9 innocent casualties of the Empire State building shooting were hit by police bullets:
The officers unloaded a total of 16 rounds at a disgruntled former apparel designer, killing him after he shot and killed a co-worker and engaged in a gunbattle with police, authorities have said.The Zero Hedge article has a video of the confrontation where the guy turns to face the police officers pursuing him, appears to pull out a gun, and then staggers and finally collapses as the bullets hit him. The apparent shooting distance looks to be around 10 feet from the video, although it could easily be 5 feet more for the second officer.
Unlike a lot of commentators, I'm not particularly surprised at the high bystander casualty numbers. This shooting happened at 9am so the streets would have been packed with people. It looks as if the closer officer was firing more or less along the kerb-line of the street, and the farther officer at an angle that would have gone diagonally across the street to the far sidewalk, so the bullets would have had a long way to fly before they got stopped by any buildings or street furniture. But why did so many shots miss at such (relatively) short range?
The police officers would have been reflexively firing their service weapons (9mm automatic pistols) until the threat - Jeffrey Johnson, carrying a .45 caliber firearm - was neutralised, which generally means bleeding out on the floor and separated from his weapon. With the suddenly developing situation, seeing Johnson reach for his weapon, the cops' fight-or-flight reflexes would have kicked in and dumped adrenaline into their systems, causing their peripheral blood vessels to contract and muscles to shake. The chance of their first couple of rounds hitting Johnson, even from 10 feet away, would have been fairly low. They would have attempted to walk their rounds on to Johnson's centre of mass (chest), firing maybe once a second. As he dropped - which he seemed to do quite suddenly - he would have fallen out of the line of their fire and the officers would have taken a moment to realise he was down while they were still firing and bullets passing through were Johnson used to be standing.
You can't really blame the NYPD for this. Johnson clearly wasn't in the mood to stop and surrender; once he appeared to go for his weapon, this was only going to end one way. But why were the officers such (apparently) bad shots? Lack of practice. Look at Joseph Goldstein's report on 2010 NYPD shootings:
Last year, 52 officers from the New York Police Department fired a total of 236 bullets during confrontations with suspects. About half of the officers used a two-handed grip on their firearm, as the department encourages, while the others shot one-handed. And in a sign of just how tense these 33 separate shooting episodes were, and how rapidly they unfolded, only one officer reported using the gun’s sight before firing.So shootings are relatively rare, and regular patrol officers are very, very unlikely to fire their weapons in anger: there are about 9000 patrol cars in the NYPD, so let's say about 9000 patrol officers - that's only about 6% of officers firing in anger. Many patrol officers can go their whole career without firing their weapon. It's not surprising that the first time they fire, the bullets don't all go into the offender.