BRIDGEWATER (CBS) — The Middleboro police officer who was injured during a SWAT training exercise accident earlier this week has been released from the hospital, authorities said Friday.
The officer was not identified. His fingertip was amputated after a 37mm projectile launcher loaded with training rounds exploded in his hands Wednesday morning at MCI Bridgewater.
“The ensuing investigation by Bridgewater Police indicates that the device malfunctioned in the officer’s hands while he was training to do his job in the normal performance of his duties. The device broke into several pieces and a portion of the barrel was split in half,” Bridgewater Police said in a statement Friday.
The officer’s left hand was severely cut in multiple places and part of one of his fingertips was amputated. He was released from a Boston hospital Thursday.
“I am very glad to see that our officer is back home with his family and I would like to thank the staff at Mass. General for the great care that they provided and their hospitality for the many officers and family members that went to visit him,” Middleboro Police Chief Jason Perkins said. “I would like to commend our officer for his high spirits and professionalism during this unfortunate ordeal.”
Police SWAT unit officials said they want to warn other law enforcement agencies that use similar projectile launchers, about the equipment malfunction.
“It may be age. It may be stress. It may be how many rounds were fired. It may also be the ammunition itself. These were essentially agricultural rounds that are used to disperse birds from a crop area,” said Marc Duphily, unit commander for the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or SEMLEC.
The SWAT unit has since suspended the use of the device.
Investigators will be reaching out to the manufacturers of the projectile launcher and the training rounds to help determine what went wrong.
“All factors will be looked at, including the age of the device, the training round that was used and whether there were any defects in the products. At this point, all indications are that it was not the officer’s error but a defective device that malfunctioned in his hands,” Bridgewater Police Chief Chris Delmonte said.
While officers don’t use the launcher on a normal basis, it is used in SWAT operations requiring action such as smoke screens, flares, noisemaker rounds, and “flash bang” style grenades.