Criminal proceedings are underway after a 26-year-old Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) officer died after a firing range accident.
President Alar Karis expressed his condolences over the incident, in Võru County, on his social media account, saying that: "The life of a young police officer, Joonas Männik, was ended tragically. It ended in the course of the performance of his duties, in an exercise where he was practicing ensuring our security."
PPA head Elmar Vaher said that: "Today's events have unexpectedly brought us all tears. We have lost a young, energetic and dedicated colleague who was an example to many with his brilliant status, communication skills and readiness to act."
Kairi Kaldoja, leading prosecutor at the Southern District Prosecutor's Office, called it tragic that such a young police officer had died in the line of duty.
She said: "The work of PPA officers includes continuous training and testing, where potential hazards must be surmounted. There are a number of safety requirements, whose correct observance must ensure the safety of participants. Via the criminal proceedings, we will ascertain exactly the extent to which these were met by both participants and instructors."
The incident took place at around 3 p.m. Thursday at the Järvere shooting range, Sõmerpalu municipality, in Võru County. The PPA's southern prefecture rapid response personnel, based in Tartu, were taking part in training at the range.
Preliminary information states that two teams were practicing moving tactically, and shooting targets as part of the exercise, under the supervision of instructors.
At some point, one of the PPA operatives found themselves in the other team's fire zone, and was hit by rounds fired by a colleague.
How the officer entered the danger zone is not yet known.
The victim's colleagues called for help and immediately began resuscitation procedures, but to no avail and the man died at the scene.
Elmar Vaher said that criminal investigations have already been launched, while the PPA fire team personnel are at the PPA's Tartu station as of Friday and ready to give their witness testimony when needed.
The rapid response unit taking part in the exercise must undergo special and complex training, which was what had been happening Thursday. Each trainig session is preceded by the repetition of safety drills, Vaher said, adding that instructors and paramedic-trained personnel are always on site.
The PPA officer who died started with the PPA in 2015 and moved to rapid reaction duties in Tartu from 2017.
The criminal proceedings are being conducted by the PPA's Internal Control Bureau under the oversight of the the Southern District Prosecutor's Office. Criminal investigations by the PPA are in general directed by the prosecutor's office.
Editor: Andrew Whyte