Vargas: ‘Throw-down gun’ theory in Charlotte shooting should be thrown out


The police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina has ignited a secondary conversation centered around competing narratives.

In the police narrative, Keith Scott was armed with a handgun and had it in his possession when he exited his vehicle.

In the second narrative, perpetuated by the family, Scott was reading a book in his vehicle and never had a gun in his possession.

The implication, of course, is police officers on the scene planted the handgun.

The term “throw-away,” “throw-down,” or “drop gun” has been extensively used by news commentators.  The term “throw-away gun” is used to describe a firearm planted by police officers to justify a shooting.

There is a belief among some of these commentators that the so-called practice of “throw-down guns” are a normal part of police culture.

After 30 years of police work, I never saw or heard of anyone possessing a “throw-down gun.”

My father, who spent 34 years as a police officer, never ran across, saw or heard of anyone possessing a “throw-down gun.”

My brother, who currently is a police officer, has never heard of officers using “throw-down guns.”

Historically, the use of “throw-down guns” by police officers are extremely rare. It’s so rare it took me a while on the Internet to track down just a few documented cases.

In 1977,  three officers were convicted of planting a gun after a pursuit and shooting in Houston,Texas.

LAPD Officer Rafael Perez, of Rampart scandal fame, admitted to planting a gun after a 1996 officer-involved shooting.

In the mid 1990’s, a group of rouge Miami police officers were arrested and convicted for planting a gun to justify a shooting.

The fact that cases like these even exist is deplorable and repugnant to the thousands of officers who serve with honesty and integrity.

These incidents, although extremely rare, have had a lasting effect on the reputation of law enforcement everywhere.

In the Charlotte shooting, the likelihood of officers planting a firearm has not been supported by the evidence presented, so far. I find it highly unlikely that even corrupt officers would think to strap an ankle holster on a suspect in full view of police and citizen cameras.

Planting guns has never been a normal part of police culture. A few exceptional cases don’t make it the norm.

The fact that officers have to defend themselves against accusations of planting guns in officer-involved shootings is a consequence of those few bad cops who stepped over the line and became criminals themselves.

Thankfully the use of body cameras, citizen-recorded video and advances in forensic processing have made it easier to disprove “throw-down gun” theories.

The harder part is convincing the mob who won’t accept anything but their own version of the truth.