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Chicopee Chief: Live Ammo Not Supposed to be Part of SWAT Exercise

Cop shot scene

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB) — A member of the Chicopee SWAT team is recovering tonight at Baystate Medical Center in good condition. This, despite being mistakenly shot in the head.

Lucky to be alive. That’s how Chicopee Chief of Police Thomas Charette described the SWAT officer shot Monday afternoon during a training exercise near Westover Air Reserve Base.

“Obviously we’re in a dangerous business,” explained Charette. “Everyone knows that. We train very hard, especially our special operations unit and sometimes things just go wrong.”

Both Chicopee and State Police are investigating exactly what went wrong, though Mayor Michael Bissonette wrote on his Facebook page ‘the injuries were accidental and non-life threatening’ – something confirmed by Charette.

“When you hear that somebody was shot in the head…you know I heard that on the news yesterday…it’s not like he took a round to his brain or through his eye. So it was minimal damage to what could have happened.”

The bullet struck the officer on the left side of his head, near his eye.

But what’s less clear is why a handgun went off in the first place. Despite safety precautions, mistakes can and will happen and when you add live ammunition into the equation, the danger goes way up.

But this particular training session shouldn’t have included real ammunition.

“The exercise where this occurred was not supposed to be live fire,” said Charette, even though earlier in the day, the 12 member SWAT team did have live fire training.

As former officer and police academy instructor, AIC Criminal Justice Professor David Kuzmeski confirmed, it’s not uncommon for police to use ammunition to simulate real life situations.

“Everybody is extremely careful. Extremely cognizant of the danger and everything is done very systematically.”

But now that system is being called into question as police look to answer why the weapon fired, a .40 caliber standard issue handgun, was loaded in the first place.

“Sometimes things just go wrong and happen and we’re going to find out exactly why they did happen and we’re going to correct that,” said Charette.

Police also won’t say exactly whose weapon was fired. Nor will they release the officer’s name. Though we do know he’s a veteran on the force with more than 20 years of service.

Chief Charette says all SWAT training has been suspended while the investigation continues.

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