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FBI agent almost shoots cop during staged robbery

A plainclothes officer "stole" a purse for a news segment, and the agent drew his gun, unaware that he was aiming at a cop

By PoliceOne Staff

DETROIT — An FBI agent came close to shooting a Detroit cop at a gas station Wednesday during a staged purse snatching for a TV news report.  

A news station was filming a segment on “How to be a Better Witness” when the incident happened. A Detroit officer, who had been approved by the department to take part in the exercise in plainclothes, "stole" a woman's purse and ran around the gas station, according to My Fox Detroit.

However, an off-duty FBI agent  who was filling his tank and was unaware of the simulation, responded by drawing his weapon.

"He witnesses the whole thing," said Inspector Shawn Gargalino  with the Detroit Police Department. "He gives chase. He pulls his weapon, and as he turns the corner around the gas station, he's stopped by another officer, who identifies herself as a police officer and 'don't shoot, don't shoot, this is a scenario.'"

WDIV Channel 4 was attempting to demonstrate what witnesses of a crime see or don’t see during the report. The demonstration involved an unarmed suspect — played by a plainclothes police officer — snatching a woman's purse — played by a news station employee — with real, unassuming witnesses around watching the incident.

"Somebody could've got hurt, and I think it's my job as the commanding officer of the 1st and 13th Precincts to make sure that anything like this never happens again," Gargalino said.

Veteran Lt. Chuck Flannagan called the incident “a tragedy waiting to happen.”

“We have an officer right now fighting for his freedom because someone up the chain decided to accommodate television producers,” he said, referring to Detriot Officer Joseph Weekely, who is on trial for the accidental shooting death of a young girl during a raid that was filmed for a reality show.

WDIV didn’t comment on the incident. The segment was not filmed, after police refused to try the scenario a second time. 

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