Stray bullet: An accidental killer during riot control
BACKGROUND The use of force to control public uprisings, riots, unruly mobs is an important tool in any administrative setup. Law enforcement agencies often resort to aerial firing, which can be responsible for unintended injuries due to stray bullets.This study was designed to study the pattern of stray bullet injuries and to generate awareness about the hazards related to the use of live ammunition during riot control. METHODS This study was conducted in our unit of the neurosurgery department over a period of 18 months, from June 2008 to December 2010. We enrolled all patients who had head or spine injuries caused by stray bullets from firing during riot control far away from the site of injury. RESULTS We had two patients with head injury and two with spinal injury sustained because of stray bullets. One of the patients with head injury was operated and the other one was managed conservatively; the latter died on the third day of injury, while the former is surviving with some residual neurological deficit. Amongst the patients with spinal injury, neurological deficits persist till date. None of the patients were aware that they had sustained a bullet injury, and it was only after inquiry that we came to know that the police had resorted to aerial firing for controlling public agitation in nearby areas. CONCLUSION Aerial firing of live cartridges is generally considered an 'innocuous' method; however, in view of the potential for injury to innocent bystanders, we recommend that the use of live cartridges during aerial firing be banned.