In ‘terrible accident,’ SFPD rookie shoots himself

A rookie San Francisco police officer accidentally shot himself with his service revolver Saturday while demonstrating a police maneuver during a party at his San Mateo apartment, authorities said Monday.

Officer James Gustafson, 23, was wounded in the neck and head by a single shot at 1:40 a.m. Saturday and died an hour later after being transported to Stanford Hospital. San Mateo police called the incident a “terrible accident,” and the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office said the investigation indicated it was an accident and not a suicide or homicide.

Raised in Millbrae, Gustafson graduated from the San Francisco Police Academy one year ago and had just finished the field-officer training program at the Mission Police Station. He was assigned two weeks ago to the Central Police Station, which covers many popular locales in downtown San Francisco, and officials there called him “pleasant” and a “great kid.”

“It was not a purposeful act for him to shoot the weapon,” San Mateo Capt. Kevin Raffaelli said of the “terrible accident.”

According to authorities, roughly 15 people were at the gathering in Gustafson’s apartment on the 100 block of El Camino Real, but only one person witnessed the incident.

Raffaelli would not say whether there was alcohol was involved, nor would he indicate if other police officers attended the gathering.

Standard autopsy tests will reveal whether Gustafson had been drinking at the time, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said. The general orders manual for San Francisco police officers says officers are prohibited from possessing a firearm while intoxicated, and general firearms training guidelines include instructions to always handle a firearm as if it were loaded.

“The indication is that he was demonstrating some type of move with the gun,” Foucrault said. He added that it was his understanding that the move was perhaps how to disarm someone and the gun was his service weapon.

The single accidental gunshot hit Gustafson in the upper neck and head area, Foucrault added.

“Obviously, this tragedy happened; obviously, something went wrong,” San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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