SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — For nearly two years, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department has been phasing in the use of less-lethal bean bag shotguns. Nearly all of their patrol officers are currently equipped with the weapons designed to pack a punch, but not kill.
Deputies fired a less-lethal round Saturday, striking a suspect who claimed to have a gun and wouldn’t show officers both hands. The beanbag blast combined with the use of a K-9 allowed deputies to take the suspect into custody without lethal consequences.
“That situation could have ended very differently had the less lethal shotgun not been present,” said Sgt. Shaun Hampton.
Sheriff’s officials say the suspect in that case, 41-year-old Jackie Burke, stabbed the K-9 several times in the head during the incident, but the dog is expected to make a full recovery.
The department’s less-lethal shotguns are clearly marked and have an orange stock and forend. Department officials say they operate nearly identically to the 12 gauge shotguns officers train on at the academy. The less-lethal shotguns hold a total of 7 rounds. The rounds are comprised of buckshot wrapped in a Kevlar sock.
Since the shooting death of Stephon Clark by Sacramento Police, groups like Black Lives Matter have been pushing for changes in procedure when it comes to the use of lethal force. Sacramento Black Lives Matter founder, Tanya Faison says she’s aware of the sheriff department’s less-lethal shotguns but thus far, is not convinced they will stop the deaths of African Americans by police.
“So I think it’s something we’ll have to see to believe,” Faison said.
Sheriff’s officials say situational training is the key, as officers have to make split-second decisions and determine on a case-by-case basis if less-lethal is the best option.
“If this tool is what they see fit to deploy in a certain situation, it can also be a life-saving tool and preserve life, and that’s what we do at the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department,” Hampton said.
Hampton says the less-lethal shotguns are effective at a range of about 25 yards, which is more range than the Tasers all deputies carry.