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tv   Nightline  ABC  August 25, 2021 12:37am-1:06am PDT

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there, goodnight! ♪ ♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, questionable misfires. >> what the hell? >> a handgun widely used by law enforcement now under fire. >> never in my honest dreams i would have believed that my gun would just have shot me. >> a new lawsuit alleging sig sauer's p-320 could go off on its own. the paragraphs' attorney -- >> if this were a car, phone, refrigerator, it would have been recalled long, long ago. ♪ plus legendary rockers remembering charlie watts. starting off the rolling stones. >> charlie was a rock. history made. new york's new governor.
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that's what we're made for. usaa. what you're made of, we're made for. get a quote today. good evening. thank you for joining us. a gun going off on its own may seem like something out of a
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movie. that is what is being claimed in a lawsuit. allegations the sig sauer p320 firing on its own. here's abc's investigative correspondent david scott. >> i never lost consciousness, but it's a very sick feeling. i was cold at some points, shaking. the fear kind of takes over, adrenaline takes over. >> reporter: it happened so fast, so unexpectedly, britney hilton had no idea she'd been shot. >> the amount of pain -- i just said, am i going to die? please just tell my kids that i love them. i didn't know if i was going to make it to the hospital. >> reporter: she also said she didn't know just how close she came to death. 1 millimeter. the edge of a penny. that's what this texas mom and veteran police officer says saved her life. were you aware at the outset that it was your gun that had gone off? >> no. it happened so fast, you don't
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really know -- it's not enough time to process what's really happening. >> reporter: the police report says hilton's service gun was still holstered in her purse. >> gun owners don't want to think that their gun can just go off without the trigger being pulled. >> reporter: hilton is now suing gunmaker sig sauer, one of the most popular brands in the nation. its semiautomatic pistol, the p320, is a big seller about 500,000 in circulation across the country, and is widely used by police officers including hilton's. but the p320 is also the target of growing controversy, accused in multiple lawsuits of having a dangerous defect where the gun has fired without the trigger being pulled. that is the actual bag? >> this is the actual bag. >> reporter: hilton showed us what she says happened in december 2020, the day her gun went off while she was at the police station. >> i picked it up, it was underneath my desk. i picked up my bag, my keys were
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on top. this is how i walk around my desk. my purse swings out. it shoots out the bottom of my bag. there was actually a hole right there. the bullet hole. i smelt gunpowder immediately. and then i took one step, and ii felt this pain. it felt like a hot rod of metal had just been placed not only in my private, but through my leg. this was the jacket i was wearing. and it shoots out the back. >> and exits? >> exits my outer buttocks. >> so this is the exit? >> yes. >> are you in pain right now? >> i am. i have to adjust periodically. there's no point that i'm really not in pain, unless i'm lying down. >> they have the hardest job in the world as it is.
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the last thing they need to worry about is their own weapon firing on them. and this one has done that. >> reporter: jeffrey bagnell represents hilton and several other police officers who are suing sig sauer over the p320. >> obviously i think it's a very, very serious safety problem, for law enforcement and for the public at large. i'm not aware of any other semiautomatic pistol today that has this problem. >> reporter: in hilton's $15 million lawsuit, it says, quote, there have been 54 reported uncommanded discharges of the p320. meaning the gun went off by itself. which occurred over the last five years in 22 states and washington, d.c. there are currently nine other pending lawsuits against sig sauer, all alleging the gun went off on its own. especially troubling, many of the people suing sig sauer are in law enforcement, with extensive firearms experience.
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>> i grew up in the country of southeast texas. we have firearms everywhere. >> how old were you when you learned too shoot? >> i don't even remember holding my first gun. maybe 8. >> always been comfortable around firearms? >> yes. >> it's not credible to claim that people with this amount of training, this amount of skill, are all shooting themselves. you would have to conclude there's a problem with the product, not with the people. >> reporter: sig sauer did not respond to abc news' request for comment. the gunmaker has previously denied liability for these incidents and in some cases blamed the plaintiffs for negligence. in august 2017, the company claimed, quote, the p320 meets and exceeds all u.s. standards for safety. in sig sauer's response to the bridge city police department after hilton's incident, the company contends, quote, a foreign object entered the trigger guard, causing the pistol to discharge. hilton disputes that.
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>> this is unloaded. i've double-checked it, triple-checked it. there's no way for the trigger to -- you can't get anything into the trigger, there's nothing you can stick in that would make that trigger pull, even if the gun was out a little bit. >> so the idea that something in your purse somehow would have had to enter there and then -- >> it would have to enter in there, while i'm carrying my purse, something would have had to wedge in there and have to make a motion to pull back, then pull the trigger. >> reporter: virginia sheriff's deputy marci vadness was injured in 2018 when about she says her p320 went off on its own. she was removing the weapon from her belt, still in its holster. >> i couldn't feel my leg at all. there was complete numbness all the way down to my toes. >> reporter: the bullet hit her in the thigh, shattering her femur. sig sauer didn't admit any wrongdoing, but the company settled her lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money the day after the trial started
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after the jury heard her testify. she still wants the gun off the market. >> i saw what it did to me. i saw what it did to my family. and i don't want that to happen to anybody else. >> reporter: bagnell says he's been pressing sig sauer to recall the weapon for years. >> firearms are not subject to federal regulation. the only product that is not. if this were a car, a phone, a refrigerator, it would have been recalled long, long ago. so i think it is unconscionable, given the number of incidents of this gun defectively discharging without a trigger pull, would necessitate a recall, and only sig can do that. >> reporter: while sig sauer continues to dispute there is anything wrong with the p320, the company offered what it called a voluntary upgrade in 2017, saying, quote, these upgrades will enhance the protection against unintended discharges if the pistol is dropped. it also began manufacturing all
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p320s with the upgrade. is it true that your gun was already modified based on this upgrade? >> yes. we have the newest version. and was supposed to have the upgraded trigger. >> the defect has not been addressed. and that's why the gun is still firing. >> reporter: major peter velani agrees, there is something wrong with the gun. the police officer has 35 years' experience as a firearms instructor and is a sig sauer certified armorer on the p320 pistol. >> you don't have anything against them? >> no, not at all. i carry sig, i own sigs, i just don't own a 320. wouldn't, nor would i ever. >> reporter: in 2019, he says he started investigating the p320 after an officer in his department was injured. when you took the gun apart, what did you think? >> i thought, wow, they need to do their homework. they need to fix this gun.
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>> reporter: velani is an expert witness for hilton in her case against the gunmaker. could it be these weapons were simply mishandled? >> when i see videos of police officers getting out of their car and their weapon discharges in their holsters? no, there's a problem with the gun. >> reporter: he's talking about this police body camera video from 2016 where a michigan police officer stopped to help a driver on the side of the road -- [ gunshot ] >> what the hell? >> reporter: it captures the moment his p320 fired as he was getting out of his cruiser. >> explain to me how a gun goes off getting out of the car. >> your seat belt wouldn't have hit that? >> no, the trigger was completely covered. i don't know. >> reporter: firearms expert and abc news consultant joshua harrison agrees there was a problem with the p320, but he believes it has been fixed. >> there were a lot of changes. it was expensive.
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they would not have done that for no reason at all. in my opinion, the only reason sig would have done that is if they knew there was a safety problem with the original gun. otherwise, they would not have done it. >> reporter: abc news asked harrison to review materials from hilton's legal team. he says, to him, it's unclear what could now be causing misfires in the upgraded guns. do you believe that this gun should be removed from the marketplace? >> no, i don't think the upgraded version should be recalled. in fact, i think the previous version should be recalled so that everyone has the upgraded version. >> reporter: some police departments have already started replacing both versions of the gun. in philadelphia, septa, the transit police, swapped out their p320s after an officer's gun went off in 2019. >> my weapon goes off, but i didn't know it was my weapon. >> reporter: the bullet narrowly missing him and a nearby woman. the unit now issues glocks. detective hilton says her
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department is also ordering new guns. but in the meantime -- >> they issued now a new service handgun, right? >> they did. >> what model was it? >> a p320. >> same model? >> same model. >> reporter: hilton says she still lives with the physical and emotional scars from that december day. >> the fact that i carried my purse into my house every single day and my children were at home, sig put their life at risk. sig knows they put their life at risk. >> why are you doing this interview now? >> i think that this gun needs to be removed from the shelf. i hope it doesn't take something fatal, and i'm hoping they'll bring an awareness to the public, that maybe it will bring attention to sig to say, hey, this gun'sn issue, and before it gets someone killed, take it off the shelf. stop manufacturing this gun. find a different solution. >> reporter: for "nightline,"
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i'm david scott in new york. >> our thanks to david. up next, painted black. remembering the legendary charlie watts. ♪ not easy facing 100 your whole world is black ♪ jason, did you know geico could save you hundreds on car insurance and a whole lot more? cool. so what are you waiting for? mckayla maroney to get your frisbee off the roof? i'll get it. ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ ♪ whoa. here you go. (in unison) thank you mckayla! dude, get it. i'm not getting it, you get it. you threw it. it's your frisbee. geico. switch today and see all the ways you could save. [♪] cooking and eating at home more often means food odors get trapped in your home's fabrics and released back into the air y way to kp try febreze fabric refresher.
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the rolling stones, known for spectacle and sex appeal. ♪ as they belted out hits like "start me up," there was charlie watts keeping the tempo. the stones drummer often referred to is a the heartbeat of the band, passing away at the age of 80 in his hometown of london. watts' spokesperson releasing a statement writing, it is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved charlie watts. he passed away peacefully at a london hospital earlier today surrounded by his family. a core member of the rolling stones for 58 years, known for his dapper image and reserved personality. tributes pouring in. elton john tweeting, charlie watts was the ultimate drummer, the most stylish of men, and such brilliant company. paul mccartney sending a tribute
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on social media. >> condolences to the stones. a huge blow to them. because charlie was a rock. >> charlie's not what we think of when we think of rock 'n' roll drummers. we tend to think of the rock drummer as defined by somebody flailing around wildly, keith moon, that's what we think of as a rock drummer. and charlie watts was something different. it wasn't about him being a metronome, it wasn't about him keeping precise time. it was about his passion, his flexibility, his dignity. all these things that he brought to the music itself. >> reporter: watts grew up in london listening to vinyl records of louis armstrong. ♪ miles davis. charlie parker. ♪ meeting the young mick jagger, keith richards, brian jones in a bar in london when he was 21. >> i used to be in another band,
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and they came and sat in. it was a blues band. and they came and sat in. a little while went by. then they just asked me to join. >> reporter: the mid-'60s filled with screaming girls, wild outfits, and the stones' signature sound with hits like -- ♪ i can't get no satisfaction ♪ >> reporter: "i can't get no satisfaction" and "paint it black." ♪ i see a line of cars and they're all painted black ♪ >> reporter: watts' drumming was at the foundation of those genre-crossing hits. ♪ the phone is ringing i say hi it's me ♪ >> charlie had been playing since he was 14 years old. he could dig professionally as a jazz musician. he was a notch above not just anybody else in the stones early on, but most people out there doing this. he could push music along, he could drag it back, he could slow it down, he could speed it up. he followed them as he was
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leading them. that's extraordinarily complicated. >> reporter: he was especially known for his musical partnership with front man keith richards. >> they had a relationship of following each other, of bending to each other's direction. i'm not sure which one was in charge, to be perfectly honest. i think keith would say charlie was in charge. >> reporter: unlike his more flamboyant band mates, watts kept a low profile, but he wasn't afraid to assert his role. >> mick and keith had gone out drinking, mick comes back to the hotel and it's well past midnight. mick rings charlie's room, "looking for my drummer, where's my drummer?" charlie puts on a suit, a tie, shaves, shines his shoes, goes down to mick's room, punches him out, and says, "don't ever call me your drummer again, you're my singer." now that's a little bit about
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respect. but it's also, they knew that this guy, they were in his band. ♪ it's just a shout away it's just a shout away ♪ >> reporter: he'll remain an icon of consistency, talent, and class. ♪ up next, the new new york governor, kathy hochul, the promise she made. see how fast dust reappears. ully, it's fruo but dusting with a cloth is a pain. and dealing with a bulky vacuum.. . is such a hassle. uchhh!!! so now we use our swiffer sweeper and dusters. the fluffy fibers? they pick up dust easily. grabbing it in all those hard-to-reach places. gotcha!!! and for our floors, sweeper's textured cloths lock all kinds of dirt, dust and pet hair. unlike my vacuum, it sneaks under and around places. look at that!! dust free and hassle free. stop cleaning and start swiffering.
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♪ night,ithe ki efct, kathyom their wom temretate-inasew a quote from one of her predecessors, teddy roosevelt, who described the man in the arena. >> for the first time in new york history, a woman will enter that arena as governor. as i undertake the weighty responsibilities before me, know that i have the confidence, the
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courage, and the ability to lead new yorkers forward and make new york's women proud. >> history. that's "nightline" for this evening. catch our full episodes on hulu. see you right back here same time tomorrow. thanks for the company, america. good night. at usaa, we've been called too exclusive. because we were created for officers. but as we've evolved with the military,


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