Over the course of the first seven months of this year, Estonian police have discharged their service weapons in the course of fulfilling law enforcement duties in a total of four situations, the same number of times police did so in all of 2015. None of the shots fired by police either year were fatal.
February 12, Viljandi County, near Karksi-Nuia: Shots fired to disable stolen vehicle after attempt to run over police officers at roadblock
The last time police officers in Estonia fired a service weapon in the suspects' direction was during the police operation arranged to capture three Lithuanian car thieves. The suspects were traveling in th direction of Viljandi County in a BMW X6 luxury SUV stolen from the Tartu area and another car.
Upon reaching the police roadblock near Karksi-Nuia, the driver of the stolen SUV began to accelerate and attempted to run over police officers there. In an effort to avoid any further danger, police attempted to disable the speeding vehicle by firing shots at its tires and motor.
February 20, Kohtla-Nõmme: Warning shots fired after detained man attacked police officer with knife
On the night of February 20, patrol officers Nikita and Alvar were fulfilling job duties in the small town of Kohtla-Nõmme when after 9 p.m. they noticed a man showing signs of being under the influence of alcohol walking in the road and decided to stop him. The officers escorted him to their police car in order to write him up for a misdemeanor, however the suspect startled, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a knife. The two officers quickly jumped out of the vehicle, but not before the suspect's knife had caught Nikita's uniform sleeve.
The suspect then threatened the officers, and as windy conditions did not allow the officers to use tear gas to stop him, Alvar took out his gun, pointed it at the suspect and gave him orders to stop the attack. The suspect did not back down, and so Alvar shot a total of four warning shots into the sky. The suspect therafter turned his back on the officers to leave, which is when the police moved in to detain him.
March 20, Võnnu: Warning shots fired after fugitive attemped to evade capture by police
At approximately 1 p.m. on March 20, a fugitive attempted to escape from police via an apartment balcony. The police officer chased the suspect on foot, and when the latter attempted to escape using an arbitrarily-grabbed bicycle, the officer fired two warning shots into the sky, after which the suspect stopped and the offier was able to detain him.
April 12, Viljandi: Warning shot fired at suspect fleeing scene of murder
At approximately midday on April 12, police received a report of someone attempting to break down a door in an apartment building on Valuoja Avenue. Upon arriving at the scene, officers heard shots fired in the stairwell and immediately called for backup.
A few minutes later, a man dressed in dark clothing emerged from the stairwell and began to run away from the building. A police officer ordered for him to stop, however the man did not obey his order and continued to run. The law enforcement officer fired one warning shot into the sky using his service weapon, after which the suspect fleeing from the apartment building stopped and the officers were able to detain him.
Service weapons used four times in 2015
According to Rainer Koor, director of the Crisis Management Bureau of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) North Prefecture, law enforcement officers used their service weapons in a total of four different incidents in all of 2015, one of which was an attempt to disable a vehicle after it refused to stop, once to hold off an attack, and twice to fire warning shots.
In one situation, a suspect in Viljandi County who had consumed alcohol was found in the road carrying an axe on November 21. Police officers repeatedly ordered the suspect to drop the axe, however he began to advance toward the officers instead. One officer fired two warning shots into the air, however the suspect did not follow the officers' orders.
A second patrol arrived on the scene, toward which the suspect began to advance. When successive warning shots fired into the air and the ground did not deter the man, a police officer fired his gun at the suspect's right hand, in which he was carrying the weapon.
All discharges of service weapons reported
Koor pointed out that any incidents involving the use of a firearm must be immediately reported by the police officer to their immediate superior.
"These [incidents] are thoroughly analyzed by the PPA's Office of Security Tactics," said Koor. "Results of these analyses can be used by instructors who have undergone special training to train law enforcement officers in turn."
According to the bureau director, the use of a firearm to avert imminent danger is truly a last resort, however during the course of a year, situations still arise in which police must use their service weapon in a critical situation.
"Police officers must assess situations and possible threats and take appropriate measures accordingly," said Koor. "In a life-threatening situation, warning shots are fired to prevent greater harm, [with officers] choosing the safest appropriate moment to do so. Of course, the nature of the attack may not always allow for such an opportunity."
Koor noted that every discharge of an officer's service weapon is followed by a thorough analysis, and in instances where someone is injured or killed, a criminal investigation is conducted automatically to ascertain whether or not the use of a firearm was justified in a given situation.
Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik