Officer in accidental shootingdeath is defended by union[Rochester, NY]


(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- An officer who says he accidentally shot and killed a man during a search of a darkened suspected drug house last week stumbled or tripped before his shotgun discharged, the local police union says.

The controversial shooting was a "tragic, tragic accident," Larry Andolina, a police union attorney told reporters Monday.

Officer David Gebhardt was part of a drug raid last Thursday inside a house. Gebhardt said his shotgun accidentally discharged during the raid, firing into the chest of Vernard Davis, 21.

Davis, who was unarmed, was killed. He had done nothing to provoke the shooting, police officials have said.

Police later said that they recovered 180 bags of crack cocaine in the apartment at 924 Joseph Ave. -- with 72 of them in Davis' possession, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

In a written statement released by police officials, Gebhardt had said that he never intended to fire the weapon.

. "As I moved into the room to allow other officers to enter, my weapon discharged accidentally," he said. "I was shocked that the weapon went off, as I clearly never intended the weapon to discharge."

In describing the shooting, Gebhardt didn't mention tripping or stumbling, the newspaper said.

However, Ronald Evangelista, president of the police union's Locust Club, and Andolina both told reporters that the officer had tripped or stumbled in the dark, cluttered apartment with extension cords strew on the floor. He said drug searches are dangerous and tense for the officers.

. "They do this not because they want to, but because citizens are clamoring for this type of activity," Evangelista was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

However the dead man's father says he doesn't believe the shooting was an accident and that his son had drugs on him, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. Golberth Davis said he has hired a law firm to possibly bring a wrongful death suit against the city and police.

"I'm going to dig up the facts, and I'm going to get it right," Golberth Davis told the newspaper. "I can assure you, this information will be revealed."

Following the shooting, there have been calls by some members of the community for a civilian review board with subpoena power. But Police Chief Robert Duffy told the newspaper that the department already has an internal review process that includes civilian review.

Andolina said Gebhardt is deeply sorry about Davis' death.

"He is profoundly sad," Andolina was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "This is just tragic and he feels it; his family feels it."

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