DPS told faulty gun manufacturer to preserve evidence




    A screenshot from a DPS safety bulletin video showing how hitting an FNS pistol that is out of battery can result in it firing without pulling the trigger.

    Ten days after a shooting at a Benson hospital led the Arizona Department of Public Safety to find a flaw in their duty pistols, the agency’s top lawyer sent a letter to the firearm manufacturer demanding that they “preserve evidence.” 

    Once the Arizona Department of Public Safety notified Fabrique Nationale of the issue it discovered with company’s premier line of striker pistols, it took four months for the firearms manufacturer to publicly acknowledge the issue.

    DPS had discovered an issue that caused the weapons to fire unexpectedly or not fire at all, and the discovery was made almost entirely by accident

    Two months before the company notified the public, it promptly replaced all the striker mechanisms in DPS pistols to remedy the issue – a fix the company would later offer for free to consumers, but only if they knew about it.

    In an Aug. 24, 2018, letter, DPS General Counsel Lisa Wahlin informed Fabrique Nationale that the agency was considering litigation related to the faulty weapons.

    “This letter constitutes the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s demand to you to immediately identify, preserve, and not alter or destroy all documents, tangible things, information, data, and electronically stored information in your possession or control from December 2014 to present,” Wahlin wrote. 

    The letter goes on to demand the company send DPS any and all documentation on the testing of the FNS series of pistols and lists all the various types of records being sought. 

    “You are also requested to immediately initiate a litigation hold for potentially relevant evidence,” the letter states. 

    A litigation hold is a preface to a lawsuit, and it informs the recipient that the records in question may be needed in litigation. 

    However, DPS has yet to file any legal action against the gun manufacturer. A search of federal and local court records do not show any active cases against the company. 

    We are not currently pursuing litigation against (Fabrique Nationale),” Sgt. Kameron Lee, DPS spokesman told the Mirror. 

    Some of DPS’ responses to the Mirror’s questions about the letter were contradictory. 

    When asked if DPS was still collecting records from FN, the department said that the Wahlin’s letter “does not indicate that DPS would collect material from FN America.” 

    And although the letter states that, if the department did not receive a response by Sept. 7, 2018, DPS would consider it a “spoliation of evidence” and would “seek appropriate sanctions,” DPS told the Mirror that FN did not respond to the letter and the agency has “not had any further correspondence” with the company. 

    “You would have to reach out to FN as to whether or not they preserved anything in accordance to the request in the letter,” Lee said. 

    FN America did not respond to requests for comment.

    Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
    Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

    2 COMMENTS

    1. The problems with the FN pistol should’ve been no suprise to DPS. The problems with the pistol DPS had to have, were well documented by the Baltimore County Police Department. Why DPS went with the FN when the Glock, the pistol they went to after the FN debacle, is very suspect. The Glock and the Sig 320, the new sidearm of the US military and the Texas DPS, were readily available. DPS had a realtionship with Sig going back 35 years. There was some very flawed decision making by the people in charge at DPS.

    2. Does ADPS have an an armory procedure which extends to the management and maintenance of weapons?

      If not, there should have been one which included the FN weapon and metrics for contracting for new weapons.

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