MADERA, California (KGPE) – It’s been more than 18 years since 24-year-old Everardo Torres was killed by an officer in Madera Police custody.
It’s an incident with distinct similarities to the shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota earlier this week.
In both cases, the officers claimed they mistook their gun for a Taser.
In October 2002, Madera Police officers responding to loud music complaints at an apartment complex arrested Torres.
According to court records, he fell asleep in the patrol car while handcuffed, then woke up and started yelling and kicking the back window.
Madera Police Officer Marcy Noriega said she yelled at Torres to stop or he was going to be Tased.
Then, court documents show, she opened the patrol car door and reach down to her right side, where she had a pistol holstered on her officer belt, with a Taser just below in her thigh holster.
Officer Noriega then grabbed her gun instead of the Taser and pulled the trigger, killing Torres.
Mark Johnson, a coordinator for the peace officer reserve module program at Merced College, said there are certain practices in place to prevent this kind of mistake, although it varies by department.
“Two big things – the Taser is usually a bright neon color, and then typically an officer’s sidearm is going to be on the strong side of their body. Typically, the Taser is going to be in a holster that’s a cross-strong, so, in other words, you’re going to have to move across your body to pull it out,” said Johnson.
Johnson said in California, officers must have at least 12 hours of training every two years for defensive tactics and firearms use.
However, he said there aren’t a lot of universal regulations when it comes to using Tasers.
“The Taser’s a great tool,” said Johnson. “I certainly wouldn’t want to see officers lose it because when it’s used effectively, a majority of the time, injury is avoided to both the officer as well as the individual they’re trying to apprehend, but definitely we’re going to have to take a closer look at it because we can’t make these mistakes.”