While there is ample evidence of the benefits of vaping to quit smoking, there may be dangers no one really thinks about… An e-cigarette turned out to be a pivotal piece of evidence in a legal case in New-Mexico. On the 20th of December last year, an e-cig was mistaken for a weapon by a police officer. For this reason, the police officer in question confronted a suspect and opened fire, causing the tragic death of vaping enthusiast Frankie Anchondo.
The state police investigator in Farmington explained the context that led to the officer opening fire on the suspect. The suspect had been spotted by police in the act of stealing a van, and at some point was seen holding an electronic cigarette. From the officer’s perspective, the other individual in the passenger seat seemed to be calling for help.
Then everything happened very fast. The van sped away, with the police cruiser in chase, before stopping in a dark alleyway. Anchando exited the vehicle at this point. He then advanced on the police officer with his e-cig held in both hands, looking like a weapon. The police officer, convinced he was in mortal danger, opened fire five times on the suspect, who died at the scene.
A costly mistake and no laughing matter
The investigation is now in the hands of the 11th District Attorney of Farmington. The context leads to believe that it was a textbook case of self-defence. The officer explained to the investigators, stating that Anchondo was standing in a dark alleyway. He was advancing with an object in his hands. How could the officer know that it was simply an e-cig, given the context and the suspect’s attitude?
There are many theories as to what made Anchando behave the way he did. Psychotic break? A drug-fueled error of judgement, or a suicide attempt by forcing the police officer to act in self-defence?
Keep in mind that this is the second time an electronic cigarette was involved in a criminal investigation. In September 2016, a police officer mistook the e-cig of 38-year-old American Alfred Olango for an edged weapon. As a result, the man was shot and killed.