Weapons Discharge Report

by Dan Albergotti

      “Incident involved the shooting of an animal.”
      —option under “Nature of Incident” in Police Policy Studies
      Council’s form “Weapons Discharge Report”

      “…it looks like a demon…”
      —Officer Darren Wilson, describing unarmed 18-year-old
      Michael Brown in grand jury testimony


Complete this report as fully as possible to the best
of your recollection. Do not consult video evidence.

What time, what day, what week, what month, what century?

What district, what section, what subsection, what nation?

What type of incident: disturbance call,
domestic dispute, service of warrant,
homeland security activity, school disturbance,
church disturbance, disturbed individual,
disturbed family, disturbed culture,
suspicious person, suspicious color,
suspicious loyalty, suspicious love?

Select nature of incident: exchange
of gunfire between officer and offender,
perceived threats with a brandished edged object
or blunt object or unfired firearm, armed attack
was perceived by officer (but weapon never found),
another perceived threat not involving a weapon
(examples: safety of the public, involved parties
or officers threatened, officer felt threatened,
felt underappreciated, felt tired, bleary eyed,
angry, on edge, ready to pop, looked at sideways).

Pre-incident indicators of readiness:
officer arrived at the scene without
any degree of knowledge of danger,
officer totally surprised by threat,
officer knew assailant from prior police contacts,
officer was somewhat prepared for threat
due to prior knowledge of person and/or place,
officer knew exactly where he was, exactly
what he was doing, to whom, exactly why,
officer surprised by weapon’s power.

Light conditions: dark, dusk, dawn, blinding white,
good artificial, poor artificial, indoor, outdoor,
pure oblivion black. Was there light?
Was it dark? Was it sufficiently dark
to mask an inner darkness? Was it dusk?

Did incident involve accidental discharge
due to handling weapon, cleaning weapon,
loading or unloading weapon, admiring weapon,
admiring oneself in mirror while holding weapon,
feeling powerful, feeling excited, shaking
with anger or fear, struggling with suspect,
struggling with respect, struggling with self,
forcing entry, falling down, falling apart?

Estimate elapsed time between officer’s arrival
on scene and discharge of weapon: hours,
minutes, seconds, milliseconds.
(If nanoseconds, check “other.”)

Total number of shots fired by officer
(if unsure, write “hundreds”).
Total number of hits on suspect
(if unsure, write “dozens”).

What weapon was used by officer:
pistol, revolver, shotgun, sniper rifle,
Taser, 37mm, Pepperball, automatic
assault rifle, tactical military device?

Estimate distance of initial shot fired by officer:
Contact, 0-3 yards, 3-7 yards, 7-15 yards,
15-25 yards, over 25 yards, over 25 miles,
from Baton Rouge to Baltimore,
from New York to Los Angeles.

Was suspect moving or stationary? Was suspect
on foot, on floor, on gravel, on sidewalk, on dirt,
on grass, on drugs, on life support, on cross?

Was officer moving or stationary? Was officer standing,
prone, running, sitting, in vehicle, kneeling, supine,
squatting/crouching, ascending/descending stairs,
only ascending, towering above like a colossus?

Were multiple officers involved?
Was officer killed or wounded by assailant action?
Was officer killed or wounded by friendly fire?
Was officer hurt by friends, reserved,
alienated, taciturn, withdrawn, despondent,
prone to prolonged periods of weeping?

Did officer make independent threat identification
before firing? Did officer attempt to disengage
before employing deadly or less-lethal force?
Did officer attempt to shake off demons?
Did officer reload his/her weapon before end
of confrontation? Did body armor influence
officer’s survival? Did body armor influence
officer’s decision to fire? Did officer experience
weapon stoppage or malfunction during incident?
If so, what kind? Was officer able to clear stoppage,
clear weapon, clear head, clear conscience?

Profile of offender (check here for defaults):
age, race, gender, nationality, political affiliation.
Was offender influenced by alcohol or controlled substance?
Did offender have prior history of mental illness?
Did offender display suicidal inclinations when confronted?
Did offender have prior arrest record, history
of violent felonies while armed, history of violent felonies
while unarmed, history of assault against law enforcement,
history of persistent struggle under weight of history?

Did incident involve the shooting of an animal?
Did responding officer mistake suspect
for an animal? Did officer call suspect an animal
or similar (e.g., monkey, boy, demon, dog, child)?
Would officer say suspect looked like a demon?
Would officer say a child? Was suspect a child?

Was suspect killed by police action?
Were bystanders killed by police action?
Were elected officials’ careers ended by police action?
Was course of national history altered by police action?

Estimate the weight of history upon
officer’s decision to discharge weapon.

Dan Albergotti is the author of The Boatloads (BOA Editions, 2008), Millennial Teeth (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), and Of Air and Earth (Unicorn Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, The Cincinnati Review, The Southern Review, The Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize, as well as other journals and anthologies. He is a professor of English at Coastal Carolina University.