Injured San Joaquin deputy wasn't following gun rules, training institute says

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department confirmed Tuesday that deputy Douglas Maciel was shot in the leg Sunday at a training program in the Nevada desert.

Maciel, a 21-year department veteran, was listed in fair condition Tuesday.

Deputy Les Garcia said department investigators are in Pah- rump, Nev., investigating how Maciel was shot.

He was one of four deputies attending a four-day defensive handgun course at the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, a private outfit based in Aptos. It bills its Pahrump training course near Las Vegas as a resort. The institute offers an assortment of weapons training open to private individuals and families in everything from martial arts to knives to Uzi submachine guns.

Its founder and director, Ignatius Piazza, said Tuesday that the accident happened "when the student failed to follow the basic safety guidelines."

"Literally tens of millions of rounds are fired by tens of thousands of students each year (at Front Sight) and our Web site shows that we have an outstanding safety record," Piazza said. "

He referred further questions about what happened to a summary on the Web site. It stated that the deputy was drawing his department-issued Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun from a concealed holster when a bullet hit his upper thigh about five inches below the hip. He was treated by Front Sight emergency medical technicians and taken by ambulance to a hospital. The Web site stated that a 180-grain, hollow-point bullet was surgically removed from behind the deputy's knee.

Maciel was still in the trauma and intensive care unit at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon.

At the time of the accident, about 4:05 p.m. Sunday, 19 students were on a firing line, shooting at turning, electronic targets, according to the Web summary.

"As he began to withdraw the weapon from the holster, he violated Safety Rule 3 and allowed his finger inside the trigger guard, which contacted the lighter, single-action trigger instead of the heavier, double-action trigger causing the weapon to fire," the Web site summary stated. "Remember that the proper draw stroke involves keeping your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until the weapon is pointing downrange at the target."

Garcia said the department hasn't completed its investigation.

Piazza said the shooting is the sixth accident in 11 years of operation.

According to the Web site, three of the other five accidents also occurred while students were drawing weapons from concealed holsters. None of the injuries appeared to have been fatal.

One of the highlights advertised by Front Sight for the class Maciel and the three other deputies were attending is learning to "safely and easily" draw a weapon from a concealed holster and fire two shots in under 1.5 seconds.

San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies are trained with concealed holsters because they can be assigned to duty as plainclothes detectives, who use concealed holsters, and deputies sometimes carry concealed weapons off-duty, Garcia said.

He said the department has sent four deputies a year to the program for the past five or six years.

"We feel it is a good program," Garcia said. He said accidents also can happen during law enforcement training.

Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy Erik Neuman lost the lower half of his left leg when he was shot by another deputy in a 2004 accident at a gun range near Laird Park, outside Grayson.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.