One of America’s most popular handguns is allegedly firing on its own, leaving dozens of cops injured: suit

One of America’s most popular handguns is allegedly firing on its own, leaving dozens of cops injured: suit

By Jerry Oppenheimer

One of America’s most popular guns is a “ticking time bomb” that allegedly fires spontaneously and has injured dozens of cops.

The SIG Sauer P320 semi-automatic handgun is used by some 1,000 law enforcement agencies from the local to the federal level, as well as being a popular civilian purchase.

But its manufacturer is facing a slew of lawsuits alleging that it can fire even when holstered, even when the trigger isn’t pulled, and even when it is just sitting at rest, lawyers allege.

According to the suits against SIG Sauer, some 150 people claim to have suffered injuries, or frightening near misses, when their department-issued P320 went off on its own.

One law enforcement source told The Post, “The P320 isn’t just a gun, it’s a ticking time bomb.”

And one of the attorneys handling the many cases calls the P320 “America’s most dangerously defective gun.”

The Sig Sauer company, based in Newington, New Hampshire, did not respond to requests for comment.

SIG Sauer P320
The SIG Sauer P320 is one of the most commonly issued service weapons as well as a popular civilian handgun. But its manufacturer is facing claims it can fire spontaneously.
Alamy Stock Photo

The cases center on the P320 not having an external manual safety, known as a tab trigger. Attorneys bringing the cases say it is a crucial design flaw that makes the gun liable to fire spontaneously, with disastrous consequences. They say that although nobody has been killed, many have been injured.

Those include Sgt. Ashley Catatao, 35, a single mother of a young son and an officer in the Somerville, Mass., Police Department.

The 12-year veteran was beginning a typical night shift patrol — 4 p.m. to midnight — in the sector cruiser on April 6, 2022, as the third-most senior officer on the block.

She parked her car and walked toward her cruiser, “when I heard a loud bang and I felt this sharp pain in my upper right thigh,” she told The Post.

Sgt. Ashley Catatao
In Somerville, Massachusetts, Sgt. Ashley Catatao was about to begin a shift when her service weapon spontaneously discharged.
courtesy of Sgt. Ashley Catatao
Sgt. Ashley Catatao
Sgt. Catatao’s ordeal was captured on security camera. She can be seen reeling after the shot went off.
Sgt. Ashley Catatao
The footage will be used in the legal case she is bringing against SIG over her P320.

Her immediate thought was, “’Someone has shot me,’ and I tried to run for cover, and as I started to run, I looked down and I saw that there was a hole in my pants.”

But there was nobody trying to gun her down: Instead, she had been wounded from a bullet fired from her holstered service gun, a SIG Sauer P320. “I never would have expected that my own gun would go off and shoot me,” she said.

The startling episode was captured in black and white video by a police security camera that overlooked the lot.

Sgt. Michael Colwell was 31, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, when he went through the
police academy in 2009 and joined the Troy, New York, Police Department.

His uncle was a retired K9 officer and always had great law enforcement stories to tell, so “police work was something I was kind of interested in, and I decided to give it a shot,” Colwell told The Post.

Sgt. Michael Colwell
Sgt. Colwell was an award-winner at the academy and promoted to sergeant in 2015. He had never shot anyone or been shot at — until his own gun went off.
courtesy of Sgt. Michael Colwell

At the academy, he scored well, even winning an award for his shooting skill. “That was pretty neat to get that recognition,” he says, “to have that accolade.”

He was always a “patrol guy” and was promoted to sergeant in 2015. And in all that time, he had never shot anyone or been shot at.

That is until June 2, 2021, on the range when he was shot, like Catatao, by his SIG Sauer P320.
“I had holstered my duty weapon, tucked it away when we heard a pop. We knew it was a gun that went off and we didn’t know if it was another officer participating in the [range practice] scenario,” he said.

“The next thing, the firearms instructor who was monitoring looked at me and said, ‘Is that your gun? Are
you hit?’

Sgt. Michael Colwell
Sgt. Michael Colwell, of the Troy Police Department, is another officer whose gun discharged itself, in his case while it was holstered after a range practice session.
Hans Pennink

“I didn’t know. And then with disbelief and adrenaline rushing through me, I realized that a bullet kind of came crushing through my leg, and sure enough, there was a hole in my pants and that’s when the reality and panic set in on my part because the hole wasn’t there when I started the day.”

Catatao and Colwell are just two of the 82 cases, most of them involving law enforcement, being brought by personal injury attorney Robert Zimmerman, with the Philadelphia law firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett and Bendesky. He has filed 52 cases and another 30 are being prepared.

Zimmerman told The Post 40 of his clients are part of two separate mass actions in New Hampshire, where SIG Sauer is headquartered. The other cases are individually filed in state and federal courts throughout the country — Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Oklahoma, Georgia and Kentucky.

Among those taking legal action are as many as 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

SIG Sauer P320
The P320, which comes in varying sizes, lacks an external manual safety, or tab trigger.
picture alliance via Getty Images

Other lawyers are involved too. Zimmerman said that in total, the litigation involves over 150 incidents of the guns going off.

He says something needs to be done immediately before more people are injured, or worse.

“We’re calling on SIG to recall this weapon and redesign it to make it safe,” Zimmerman told The Post.

“The issue is that SIG Sauer has advertised this gun as a gun that won’t fire unless the user wants it to fire and none of my clients wanted this gun to fire.

Robert Zimmerman attorney
Attorney Robert Zimmerman, who is bringing dozens of cases against SIG Sauer, told The Post that the company needs to act before there are more, and potentially worse, incidents.
Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett and Bendesky

“We have clients who have had their weapons in their holster, without their hands on the holster and it fired. We’ve had individuals who have had their guns in their holster and touched the back of the gun either to retrieve the weapon, or to put back in the holster, and it fired.”

Zimmerman said the P320 is “unique” in that SIG Sauer is the only manufacturer making this type of gun without an external manual safety.

That device, known as a tab trigger, needs to be depressed “intentionally” to make sure the gun can fire. Without that tab being depressed, the gun can’t fire.

“SIG needs to put a tab trigger on this gun to make it safe,” Zimmerman said. “A gun should not fire unless a user wants it to fire.”

The other issue, maintains Zimmerman, is that the P320 “has an extremely short trigger pull and along with no safety makes it the most dangerous gun on the market.”

SIG Sauer P320
Lawyers say the SIG Sauer’s design for the P320 is flawed and that it is possible it could kill someone.
Getty Images

SIG Sauer has said the shorter trigger distance is to improve accuracy, notes Zimmerman, “but they are not saying that adding a tab trigger would do anything to decrease accuracy.”

Colwell told The Post he is lucky to be alive. While he bled profusely from two holes in his leg, his brothers in blue applied a tourniquet and tried to keep him calm.

They “threw me in the back of a police car” and rushed to a rendezvous with an ambulance that took him to Albany Medical Center.

Luckily, X-rays showed that the trajectory of the bullet didn’t tear through his quads, but his meniscus — a pad of cartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber — was damaged and had to be repaired.

Sgt. Michael Colwell
Colwell has lost almost two years of policing due to the severity of the wound he suffered. “I haven’t been able to do any kind of rigorous activity,” he said.
Hans Pennink
Sgt. Ashley Catatao
Catatao was luckier and is back at work but now takes extra precautions with her handgun over fear of a repeat.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

The married father of three young children had to go through a long period of rehab. “I haven’t been able to do any kind of rigorous activity. I’m trying to walk as much as I can, and there are some days I can’t bend my knee as much,” he told The Post.

Next month will be his second anniversary of being shot by his own gun, and while he still has his job, he’s not well enough to return to work, and is on medical leave. “I’m still out,” he says.

Since her P320 shot her, Catatao has been assigned to detectives and is finishing her second master’s degree in mental health counseling to help fellow officers with emotional problems. Unlike Colwell, her wound was not as serious — she had just been grazed by the bullet.

She still carries the SIG P320, but unlike before she was shot, she doesn’t keep a bullet in the chamber.

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