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Police Investigate Rookie Officer’s Shooting of Partner

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles police officer who accidentally shot his partner during an informal training session in a TV studio parking lot is a rookie just two weeks out of the Police Academy, authorities said Friday.

The probationary officer, Francisco Vega, 22, was on his first day with a new partner, seven-year veteran Kevin Coffey, 28.

Coffey was struck in the thigh by a shot from Vega’s service revolver as they practiced procedures for subduing escaping prisoners in the rear seat of a patrol car Thursday at 5 p.m. on the lot of Sunset Gower Independent Studios, 1438 N. Gower Ave., in Hollywood.

2 Inquiries Under Way

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Two investigations are under way: one of the incident headed by Capt. W. O. Gartland, and another by Capt. Tim King into department policy on the use of firearms in training exercises.

“We do have policies and procedures, and we are reviewing them right now in the context of this incident,” said King of the Hollywood Division, where both officers are stationed.

The condition of Coffey, who is in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was upgraded from critical to serious. Vega was temporarily assigned to desk duties, but should return to patrol next week, according to Lt. William Hall, who is assisting Gartland’s investigation of the shooting.

Vega “was pretty well shaken up,” Hall said. “He feels terrible.”

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Vega, Coffey and two other uniformed officers had gone to the lot while on duty to conduct training sessions. Hall said one involved a traffic stop. The shooting occurred during the day’s third session and involved subduing a suspect attempting to flee.

“The exercise called for Officer Coffey to attempt to escape by overpowering Officer Vega,” according to a Police Department statement. “During their struggle in the back seat, Officer Vega’s service revolver became dislodged from its holster. Officer Vega grabbed the weapon at which time one shot was accidentally fired, injuring Officer Coffey on his left hip.”

Hall said the training exercise was not supposed to include the use of firearms.

No specific written policy covers the officers’ actions, according to Lt. Gary Lee, who heads the tactics training section of the department.

“If we are doing training with firearms, the only time the firearm would be loaded is on the (shooting) range,” Lee said. “There would be no reason to unload firearms if they were not part of the training exercise.

“In this particular situation, it’s a matter of judgment,” he said.


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