“Non-lethal” weapon kills police officer

Officer Fred Thornton was killed by a supposedly "non-lethal" flashbang grenade (Source: CharlotteObserver.com)

Flashbang grenades — which are used on a daily basis by police officers across the United States — are often touted as “non-lethal” weapons despite the fact that they have a history of killing people and burning buildings down. The latest life to be claimed by this deadly “non-lethal” weapon was not a victim of a paramilitary-style SWAT raid, but one of the very police officers who conducts them:

Police stood at attention outside Carolinas Medical Center on Friday night, saluting as an ambulance bearing the body of a fellow officer was escorted away by dozens of police cruisers.

They came to pay their respects to veteran Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Fred Thornton. The SWAT officer and father of four died Friday night after a distraction device used in SWAT situations discharged at his Mint Hill home.

Paramedics responded to a call for help at Thornton’s home about 5:30 p.m. A Mint Hill ambulance escorted by a convoy of police cruisers transported the officer to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

After a preliminary investigation, police believe the distraction device – also known as a stun grenade or “flash-bang” – discharged as Thornton was “attempting to render his equipment safe.”

In the hours after the accident, Chief Rodney Monroe and fellow officers streamed to the hospital.

Thornton, a 28-year police veteran, underwent emergency surgery, but later died as a result of his injuries. He was 50.

— Meghan Cooke, “SWAT officer dies after device explodes at home” (Feb. 26th, 2011), CharlotteObserver.com


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