Secondary transfer of organic gunshot residues: Empirical data to assist the evaluation of three scenarios

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Journal Article
Science and Justice, 2019, 59 (1), pp. 58 - 66
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© 2018 The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences The present study aimed at providing data to assess the secondary transfer of organic gunshot residues (OGSR). Three scenarios were evaluated in controlled conditions, namely displacing a firearm from point A to point B, a simple handshake and an arrest involving handcuffing on the ground. Specimens were collected from the firearm, the hands of the shooter and the non-shooter undergoing the secondary transfer in order to compare the amounts detected. Secondary transfer was observed for the three scenarios, but to a different extent. It was found that displacing a firearm resulted in secondary transfer in <50% of the experiments. The firearm also had an influence, as contrary to the pistol, no secondary OGSR were detected using the revolver. Shaking the hand of the shooter also transferred OGSR to the non-shooter's hand. In that case, the amount of OGSR was generally higher on the shooter than on the non-shooter. Finally, the largest secondary transfer was observed after the arrest with handcuffing with positive results in all cases using the pistol. In that scenario, the amounts on the shooter and the non-shooter were in the same range. This study highlights that the secondary transfer must be taken into account in the interpretation of OGSR. Indeed, an individual's hands might be contaminated by handling a firearm or having physical contact with a shooter.
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