Officer shot, killed during training event Arlington police mourn loss of corporal in accident


By Jason Trahan and Drake Witham / The Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON – A 26-year-old police officer died Thursday after another officer accidentally shot him in the head with a live round during a training exercise at a junior high school, authorities said.

Cpl. Joseph Cushman, the department's 1998 Rookie of the Year, was shot at 6:24 p.m. at Ousley Junior High School in southeast Arlington. He and another officer were both armed and demonstrating to SWAT team trainees how to react to a gunman in a public place, police said.

Police determined that a live round – not a rubber bullet – was involved in Cpl. Cushman's death, police Sgt. James Hawthorne said.

Courtesy photo
Joseph Cushman . . . 1998 police Rookie of the Year had been promoted on Wednesday.


"We're not certain at this point how that live round was introduced into the exercise. That's not part of our normal procedure. So we have a lot of investigation to do to determine how that may have occurred," he told WFAA-TV.

"The Arlington Police Department is deeply saddened by the loss of Joey Cushman," Police Chief Theron Bowman said. "He was an excellent officer who worked tirelessly with the citizens of the community. We are saddened for his family, those who worked with him and for all the officers in the department."

Officials did not release the name of the other officer, who was placed on routine administrative leave. Police said they will conduct a 30-day internal review of policies and procedures and a separate criminal investigation.

Officials said they did not know what type of ammunition was used in the officers' handguns, which they said are supposed to be loaded with rubber bullets during simulation exercises.

About 200 officers gathered at the East Arlington Police Service Center, where Cpl. Cushman was stationed, for a debriefing Thursday night, said police spokeswoman Danetta Chubé.

The officers were told that one possible explanation for the fatal shooting was that the other officer mistakenly pulled his duty weapon, which had live rounds in it.

Officials said the department's officers were devastated by the death of Cpl. Cushman, who had been promoted Wednesday.

"This is the worst type of tragedy that can happen. A lot of hearts are broke. There's a lot of emotion involved," department spokesman Sgt. James Hawthorne said. "We have counselors coming out here, and there are peer support officers in place."

The training at the school, which started May 28, was designed to teach tactical team members how to handle incidents like the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., said Ms. Chubé.

Cpl. Cushman, a 41/2-year veteran of the Police Department, was a well-liked and highly respected Christian who graduated valedictorian of his police academy class, Sgt. Hawthorne said. He had just earned his corporal stripes Wednesday. Most recently, the officer worked with east Arlington citizen patrol groups.

"He was the type of person that as a father you'd be proud to say was your son," Sgt. Hawthorne said. "He'll leave a void that'll be hard to fill. It probably won't be filled."



At least five area police officers have been shot during training exercises in recent years. Two of the shootings were fatal. 2001 – Arlington police Cpl. Joseph "Joey" Cushman, 26, was killed when he was shot in the head during a tactical training exercise at Ousley Junior High School on Thursday.

1997 – Denton officer Luz Torres Jr. was shot in the abdomen on his second day on the job. Another officer posing as a criminal shot him with a handgun that was supposed to be unloaded.

1996 – A 37-year-old Richardson police officer accidentally shot himself in the leg during a training exercise at a Plano police academy.

1991 – Arlington tactical team instructor Officer James "Trey" Roach III, 32, was shot in the neck after standing behind a target not meant to be part of the drill.

1990 – 24-year-old Cedar Hill police officer Grady Lamb was accidentally shot and killed by a fellow officer as they re-enacted a training exercise.


Cpl. Cushman was the Arlington department's sixth officer to die in the line of duty. He's one of at least five Dallas-Fort Worth officers to be shot during training exercises. In 1990, 24-year-old Cedar Hill police officer Grady Lamb was accidentally shot in the chest and killed by a fellow officer during a re-enactment.

Few details were available late Thursday about the Arlington incident.

The exercise started at 3 p.m., police said, and the 10 to 15 officers involved had returned from a lunch break shortly before the shooting. Cpl. Cushman was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth by helicopter and pronounced dead about 7:30 p.m.

Arlington school officials were distraught to hear of the accident.

"It's devastating to hear about a police officer being hit during the whole thing. It's something nobody wants to deal with or hear about," said Michael Glaspie, Arlington school board president. Trustees were told of the incident after a meeting Thursday night.

Mr. Glaspie said the training was part of the district's efforts to handle potential problems at campuses.

Jerry McCullough, AISD deputy superintendent who works with officers on security issues, said: "It's shocking. Our hearts go out to them because it's a tragedy in their ranks. I just feel for them."

The district plans to continue classes today for the 200 students attending school. Summer school classes began Wednesday, and others are participating in an extended year program for students who failed a portion of the TAAS test.

The training was supposed to be conducted from 3 to 11 p.m. Classes end at noon.

Some Arlington residents said they were concerned and surprised to learn that police were training at the school, which is in a residential neighborhood where many children play.

Brad Cunningham, a UTA student, said he saw paramedics bring the officer out of the building, still pumping his chest. His mother, Linda, said she was concerned about the training involving guns.

"For something so careful, why didn't they take extra precautions?" she said.

Staff writers Kim Horner, Tiara M. Ellis and Megan Middleton contributed to this report.

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