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April 20, 2009
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Taking his best shot

By James Mennie
The Gazette

"How many times did you shoot?" The last time I pulled a trigger I was six years old, staring down the barrel of my Colt Buntline Special replica cap-gun while ridding my parents' backyard of Wild West outlaws, Nazis and sundry other undesirables.

But right now I'm a lot older, holding a Walther P990 semi-automatic pistol that's been modified to fire bursts of laser energy instead of 9 mm bullets, my leg still hurts from where I was "shot" five minutes earlier and Hugo Tousignant of the Montreal police department's training division doesn't sound impressed.

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"Four," I reply as the ringing in my ears starts to fade, "I fired four times." "Actually," says Tousignant coolly, reviewing the shooting simulator control console as he sits behind me and the virtual courtroom I've just shot to pieces, "you fired five times." They had made me sit in a chair and hold a file folder on my lap. Tousignant told me that I was a police officer in a courtroom, waiting my turn to testify as a witness. The wall-sized screen in front of me lit up and there I was, watching another witness on the stand while the accused, sitting about three courtroom benches in front of me, muttered to his lawyer that it was all lies.

Within seconds, the accused's voice had so risen that the sheriff standing next to him (the simulator is made in Washington state, and its 500 scenarios not only take place in English but in an American context), leaned over to quiet him down.

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