Minnesota Cop Accidentally Shoots Man

The Associated Press

ROCHESTER, Minn. (September 13, 2002 2:33 p.m. EDT) - A police officer who thought he was using a stun gun to subdue a suspect mistakenly fired a bullet into the man's back, investigators said Friday.

The victim, Christofar Atak, was listed in fair condition.

An investigation into the Sept. 2 shooting found that Greg Siem thought he was holding a stun gun, Police Chief Roger Peterson.

The stun guns used by Rochester police look like handguns. They use an electric shock to temporarily incapacitate a person.

Atak, a refugee from civil war in Sudan, was drunk and acting violently at the time, police said.

"This family moved to get away from violence and they find themselves right back in it," said Atak's lawyer, William L. French.

The police chief said he spoke Thursday with Atak to apologize and explain the findings of the investigation.

Peterson said that Siem and a second officer who had both been on leave since the shooting can return to work.

Cop mistakenly fired handgun instead of stun gun into man

Associated Press

Published Sep 13, 2002

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A Rochester police officer thought he was using a stun gun when he fired a bullet into the back of a man he was trying to subdue, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has concluded.

Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson said the BCA investigation found that officer Greg Siem, a six-year veteran with the department, was trying to subdue Christofar Atak on Sept. 2. when he accidentally used his handgun instead of his Taser, a non-lethal device that uses an electric shock to incapacitate a person.

Peterson said Siem shot Atak once before realizing his mistake, then dropped his pistol and called for medical assistance.

Atak, who remains hospitalized, was listed in fair condition Friday at Saint Marys Hospital. Peterson said he spoke Thursday with Atak to explain the BCA's findings and formally apologize.

``I think the issue for the community has always been whether this was accidental or intentional,'' Peterson said. ``We know now that this was accidental.''

He said both officers, who have been on administrative leave since the shooting, can return to work when they are ready.

William L. French, an attorney hired by Atak's family, declined to comment Friday on the results of the BCA investigation. French said he and another attorney, Steven Fuller, will do their own investigation.

``It's a very unfortunate incident,'' French said.

Atak came to the United States as a refugee of civil war from Sudan.

``This family moved to get away from violence and they find themselves right back in it,'' French said.

The police chief said both Siem and officer Doug Remling responded the evening of Sept. 2 to a report of an intoxicated Atak fighting and damaging property.

Remling was the first on the scene. As Remling drove up, Peterson said, Atak, 31, jumped in front of the squad car. Remling stopped, got out of his car and approached Atak. Peterson said Remling then heard the man threaten suicide. From another squad car, Siem watched as Remling and Atak started scuffling.

As Siem left his vehicle, Peterson said, he took a Taser from the vehicle and placed it in his right-hand pants pocket. The Tasers used by Rochester police are similar in shape to handguns.

Peterson said Remling continued to try to restrain Atak but was unsuccessful. Siem then became involved in the scuffle, Peterson said, and both officers told Atak an estimated 10 times to place his hands on the squad car. The chief said that each time the officers tried to handcuff Atak, the man fought back.

At one point, Siem grabbed what he thought was the Taser, Peterson said. Instead, Siem had grabbed his handgun and removed it from its holster. Believing the handgun to be the Taser, Siem pointed it at Atak's back while Atak was being held against a squad car. Peterson said Siem then shot Atak once in the back.

The chief said it is possible the Taser that Siem had earlier placed in his pocket was knocked from him during the scuffle. The Taser was found on the ground near the squad cars.

``While officers had no intent to cause injury to Mr. Atak, we deeply regret the fact that this occurred,'' Peterson said. ``We extend our sincere apologies to Mr. Atak and his family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them as well as to the officers involved.''


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