Lack of shooting practice triggered firing fiasco?

Experts, victims' kin allege that damage could have been minimised if cops were better trained at shooting moving targets; constable Deepak Kakade, who fired 10 rounds at the killer bus, says  crowd blocked his vision

Even as a hail of bullets failed to deflate tyres of the state transport (ST) bus hijacked by Santosh Mane and stop his murderous road rage that killed eight and injured over 30, an uncomfortable question has raised its head, whether the police's 'lack of shooting practice resulted in a firing fiasco' on January 25. According to weapon experts, hitting a moving target needs precision and it could be achieved only through continual firing practice.

A Murderous Wednesday: The police at the accident site inspecting
damage caused by driver Santosh Mane(inset) after he went berserk
behind the wheel of an ST bus. File pic

Weapon expert and director of Gunmark Armoury and Lethal Force Institute A Y Kulkarni said, "Hitting a moving object needs immense practice. In the road rampage case, if the cops would have gone parallel to the bus and fired from the right by injuring the driver, the damage could have been reduced."

Death demon: A man drives the bus involved in the road rage that
claimed eight and injured over 30 people on January 25 . Pic/AFP

Retired assistant commissioner of police Sharad Awasthi seconded Kulkarni's opinion. "The cops rarely get firing practice and the reason stated for this is lack of ammunition. Isn't it shameful that government has no money for maintaining law and order?" he asked.

"The police force is working under tremendous political pressure. Constabulary has no confidence that senior officers will back them in such cases. So no one is ready to endanger his or her life when the time demands," added Awasthi.

Even the victims and their relatives have no hesitation flaying the cops for the firing fiasco. Tejas Kale, cousin of deceased Puja Bhaurao Patil who was killed in the rampage, said, "If the cops would have managed to deflate the tyres of the bus, my cousin would have been alive."

Rejecting the allegations of weapons experts and victims' kin, constable Deepak Kakade attached to Cantonment police station who fired ten rounds from his 9mm carbine, said that he could not focus on the target as panicked citizens were blocking his view.

"The bus was moving at 40 km per hour. It all started when Mane knocked off a two-wheeler at Khanya Maruti Chowk and sped away. There was a huge commotion on the streets and people were running helter-skelter for cover. Some enthusiastic bikers, who had voluntarily joined us in the 45-minute hot pursuit for Mane had almost blocked my vision. So fixing the target on the bus became further more difficult. I sounded off fire call, but the crowd did not disperse. This made it difficult for me to hit the target," said Kakade.

As a result of this, a few bullets grazed the tyres but could not deflate them. The rest only pierced the body of the bus, but did little to stop it. Kulkarni said that the cops could have blocked the bus' way by parking any heavy vehicle such as bus or truck. He also talked about the flip side of the firing.

"Weapons like SLR or 303  could have easily deflated the tyres, but damage in terms of casualty of innocent lives would have been tremendous if it would not have hit the desired object considering it was a rush hour and the streets were teeming with people."

According to sources, tough the cops on patrolling duty pleaded the control room to fire at the killer bus, the top cop allegedly denied permission, as firing orders could not be issued over the phone. Even police commissioner Meeran Chadhha-Borwankar got to know about Kakade opening fire at the bus two hours after the incident when an eyewitness informed the police chief about it.

Sharif Ibrahim Kutty, who saw Kakade firing at the bus, said, "The bullets did not hit the tyre. If they would have hit the target, then the damage would have been less."  The 21-year-old braveheart had chased the bus for 12 km on his bike and overpowered the deadly driver in Samadhan Bhel Chowk.

Just once a year?
According to sources in the police department, firing practice is conducted once in a year at the Vadachi Vadi firing range and cops are allowed to fire only 30 rounds in one session.

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