It turns out a Texas police officer assigned as a firearms instructor managed to shoot himself during a firearm lesson. Shocking to hear, I know.


It is worth pointing out that if Sgt. Vanek cared to, at least prior to this incident, he could have put himself up as a tactical trainer and offer classes. His credentials could legitimately read:

  • Certified law enforcement professional with over a decade of experience.
  • Passed multiple law enforcement firearms certifications
  • Certified law enforcement firearm instructor
  • Lead law enforcement firearm instructor for over five years.
  • “One of the best!” – Jim Devlin, Hewitt Police Chief

Had Sgt. Vanek managed to not shoot himself while demonstrating to his family, this negative story wouldn’t have come out. Manage that, slop together a curriculum, spout off about how competition or other trainers will “getcha killed”, add in some catch phrases and marketing material, and you have a “legitimate” tactical trainer in the making. If a sufficient following could be garnered he might even be successful.


Take home lesson: People billing themselves as firearm and tactical trainers that lack an earned skill assessment or background, regardless of their military or police experience, may not be much more skillful Sgt. Vanek, even if their website and promotional videos are really slick.


Synopsis below.

Hewitt police firearms instructor shoots himself in hand
By Tommy Witherspoon

The firearms instructor for the Hewitt Police Department is recovering from surgery after accidentally shooting himself in the left hand while teaching family members to shoot.

Sgt. Heath Vanek will miss at least two months of work while rehabilitating from surgery to repair a wound from his personal 9mm pistol, Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said.

The incident occurred July 15 on Vanek’s family property near the McLennan and Falls county lines and did not involve any Hewitt-issued guns or equipment.

Devlin said Vanek, 35, declined comment Friday about his accidental injury.

Devlin said there will be an internal police investigation into the incident that will comply with Civil Service procedures. Because of that process, he has limited information about the incident because the chief said he must allow the system to work before he gets involved.

But, in speaking briefly with Vanek, an 11-year Hewitt department veteran, Devlin said Vanek was teaching his family to shoot a pistol and was teaching them how to clear a semi-automatic pistol’s chamber in case the gun jams.

He was shot in the hand during the demonstration, Devlin said.

“He said, ‘I made a classic mistake,’ ” Devlin said. “We are human, too. We are not infallible. We make mistakes, and when we mess up, we mess up and do our best to correct it and get back to giving the public the best service we can.”

Vanek has been the Hewitt Police Department’s firearms instructor for at least the past five years, the chief said.

Devlin will review the internal investigation before deciding what action, if any, to take, which could range from verbal counseling to termination, he said.

“I do see a potential for some re-teaching and some remediation,” he said. “Accidents occur and when you are dealing with a handgun and other weapons, you need to make sure that all your focus is on that. You can’t give it 80 percent. You have to give it 100 percent.”

Devlin described Vanek as “one of the best.”

“He’s a good guy. He gives quite a bit to the department and he gives a lot to the citizens of Hewitt,” the chief said. “It’s an unfortunate accident and it is just something we, as a department, will work through.”