Tracing a bullet’s path from firearm to its end location is a science designed to recreate what happened at a specific event. When a bullet is shot from a gun, the distance, speed, and direction it travels is extremely important, especially in cases of foul play. According to the FBI, a bullet can travel “thousands of feet per second,” and the path a bullet takes could be used as key evidence in crime scene investigations. In these crime scenes, specifically police shootings, bullet trajectory analysis could offer some very important answers to a lot of questions.

Bullet trajectory investigators analyze bullets’ paths in a variety of different ways to get the correct answers. Any time a bullet is released from a firearm, it leaves behind microscopic marks on the bullet itself and the cartridge case, says the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These marks act as fingerprints which can be traced and tested using similar firearms to compare and determine what was used, says the article.

Investigators use a combination of old-fashioned and modern technological devices to analyze bullets. To trace the path of a bullet, they may use wooden dowels, string, and trigonometry to recreate the scene, says the FBI, and in some cases, 3-D images are digitally reconstructed to take a closer look at the scene. Advanced technology of bullet trajectory analysis includes scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. This is a technique which uses high resolution images with profound depth of field of surfaces using an electron beam. Bullet trajectories using this method are widely used and known to be non-invasive, non-destructive, and rapid in gathering information. It is often the first method before moving on to other, more invasive techniques.

Police Shooting Cases

In cases involving police shootings, whether fatal or not, bullet trajectory analysis can be vital to getting the correct information.

It’s not unusual in a typical police shooting situation for the officer to claim the shooting victim was an “imminent threat” to their safety—justifying their use of this deadly force. A bullet trajectory analysis could disprove the officer’s story about self-defense if results showed the victim was shot in the back, for example.

Conversely, it could prove the officer correct such as this incident described in a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Justice where bullet trajectory analysis was used to reconstruct a police-shooting crime scene, giving evidence that the shooting was accidental.

Recreating a crime scene using highly superior technology, or wooden dowels and string can be a painstaking process, however, the discoveries and questions answered could help solve and close crime cases of any size.

Has Your Loved One Died in a Police Shooting?

If you’re loved one has died in a police shooting and you suspect it was unjustified, it is important to get a second opinion through a private autopsy. We understand it can be very overwhelming and sometimes complicated to understand. Having a civil rights attorney who understands the medicine behind death and serious injury is vital to your case like Cameron Sehat. Please contact the attorneys at Sehat Law firm—we want to hear your case and help you seek the justice your loved one deserves.

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