NYPD Officer Fires Gun During Columbia Protest Clearing

NYPD Officer Fires Gun During Columbia Protest Clearing

An NYPD officer accidentally fired his gun on the Columbia University campus while clearing pro-Palestinian protesters from a building on Tuesday, according to the New York Police Department. No injuries were reported, and the bullet was found lodged in a nearby wall. City officials confirmed that an investigation is underway.

The NYPD arrested 112 protesters this week after university leaders requested assistance in clearing the Manhattan campus, a decision that divided the school community. The police department addressed the incident at a press conference on Friday, following criticism for not announcing the gunshot when it occurred three days earlier.

NYPD spokesperson Sergeant Tarik Sheppard stated that accidental discharges happen annually, averaging about eight per year. He added that they typically do not receive requests for information on such incidents.

The NYPD revealed that an unnamed Emergency Service Unit officer was using a firearm’s flashlight attachment to illuminate a barricade inside Hamilton Hall, which protesters occupied after being ordered to disperse. A single shot was fired into a wall a few feet away. The NYPD immediately investigated the incident and concluded it was an accidental discharge. No students were near the area when the shot was fired.

The gunshot and the internal investigation were not publicly disclosed until The City, a local news organization, reported the matter. The officer’s body camera captured the shooting, and the footage was given to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for review by its Police Accountability Unit.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik called the NYPD to the campus on Tuesday to clear Hamilton Hall, a school building occupied by protesters on Monday night. This was the second time Shafik had requested police presence in response to the pro-Palestinian encampment.

Students and faculty will have limited access to the campus for the remainder of the year, with all final exams being held online. Police released video footage showing them prying open doors, climbing through a second-story window, and clearing chairs and desks from stairwells in Hamilton. While the footage showed minor damage caused by protesters, it did not depict a violent response from them.

University students told the BBC that the police acted “rough and aggressive” toward protesters, although the NYPD denied these claims. Those arrested on Tuesday faced various charges, including burglary, obstructing governmental administration, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, trespassing, and disorderly conduct. NYPD data indicated that about 29% of those arrested on campus were not affiliated with the university.

The Columbia University protests have inspired a broader US student movement to raise awareness about the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Protesters demand that their schools divest from arms manufacturers and institutions affiliated with Israel, as well as disclose their institutional investments.

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