Details emerge about NYPD cop who accidentally fired during Columbia anti-Israel raid

The NYPD sergeant who accidentally fired his gun during Tuesday night’s operation to oust anti-Israel protesters from Columbia University mistakenly let the slug fly as he shifted the weapon from one hand to another so he could unlock an office door, officials said. 

The “experienced” cop — who had served as a sergeant for eight years in the department’s Emergency Service Unit — was holding a 9mm handgun with an attached flashlight as he helped other officers access a locked office on the first floor of the Ivy League university’s Hamilton Hall, ESU Commanding Officer Chief Carlos Valdez told reporters Friday. 

His team had already broken a window — allowing the sergeant to reach through the hole in the glass to unlock an office door from the inside, Valdez said. 

He realized he needed his dominant right hand to do that, so he switched the gun over to his left, the police official said. 

“[That’s] when the unintentional discharge occurred,” Valdez said.

“The bullet traveled to the office glass and into the office they were attempting to gain access to.”

“After the firearm discharged, the sergeant immediately assessed his team and ensured that nobody was injured,” the chief added.

“The team gained access to the office and found that there was nobody inside. In this case, the bullet landed on the floor of the office and didn’t travel anywhere else. So it was apparent that it had struck no one.” 

The sergeant continued his assignment — making sure the building was cleared — and sounded the alarm to his own supervisor “at the first opportunity,” Valdez said.

“At no time were any police officers, members of the public or any protesters in danger,” Valdez said.

“This was purely unintentional.”

The NYPD sergeant who mistakenly fired his gun during the raid to oust anti-Israel protesters from Columbia’s Hamilton Hall let the slug fly as he shifted the weapon so he could unlock an office door. New York City Police Department

The sergeant involved will be counseled and sent to retraining, he added.

Columbia students and other protesters had already been moved to a different part of the building — the lobby and main entrance area — by the time the sergeant had let off the stray round, according to Carlos Nieves, the NYPD’s assistant commissioner for public information.

A total of 109 people were arrested during Tuesday night’s operation, which also included the final clearing of the encampment on the campus’ lawn — which started a nationwide trend at other elite universities since its mid-April erection.

Antisemitism controversy at Columbia University: Key events

  • More than 280 anti-Israel demonstrators were cuffed at Columbia and the City of New York campuses overnight in a “massive” NYPD operation.
  • One hundred and nine people were nabbed at the Ivy League campus after cops responded to Columbia’s request to help oust a destructive mob that had illegally taken over the Hamilton Hall academic building late Tuesday, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and police said.
  • Hizzoner blamed the on-campus chaos on insurgents who have a “history of escalating situations and trying to create chaos” instead of protesting peacefully.
  • Columbia’s embattled president Minouche Shafik, who has faced mounting calls to resign for not cracking down sooner, issued a statement Wednesday saying the on-campus violence had “pushed the university to the brink.”
  • Columbia University president Minouche Shafik was accused of “gross negligence” while testifying before Congress. Shafik refused to say if the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is antisemitic.
  • More than 100 Columbia professors signed a letter defending students who support the “military action” by Hamas.

The morning after the operation — and a similar takedown at CUNY’s City College — Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD officials briefed the media, but made no mention of the accidental discharge. 

“I think we could have talked about it, but I don’t recall it coming up organically at that press conference,” Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard said Friday.

Members of the NYPD prepare to enter Columbia University campus to clear the pro-Palestinian protest encampment and Hamilton Hall where demonstrators barricaded themselves inside on April 30, 2024 in New York City
His team had already broken a window — allowing the sergeant to reach through the hole in the glass to unlock an office door from the inside, ESU Commanding Officer Chief Carlos Valdez said.  Getty Images

“And first off, we normally don’t do any kind of release on an accidental discharge.”

“I knew it would come up eventually, because it always does,” he added. 

Douglas Cohen, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, said Thursday night that his office’s Police Accountability Unit is investigating the shooting, as “it is our policy to review such incidents.”

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