Minnesota Cop Who Shot Daunte Wright Just Couldn’t Tell Difference Between Taser, Gun, Random Banana
The police generously offer a Whitman's sampler of cops whom Black people might encounter in our lives: There are straight-up killers like Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Then there are the vicious bullies who pepper-sprayed and threatened US Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario and the total flakes like Amber Guyger who shot Botham Jean in his own home. Oh, and there are all the perfectly fine cops, but I personally don't like the odds.
Officer Kim Potter of the Brooklyn Center Police Department is one of the flakes, it seems. She fatally shot Daunte Wright in suburban Minneapolis Sunday, but claims she only meant to tase him, bro. She apparently confused her taser with her gun, but a taser isn't like a sparkling firearm. It's an entirely different weapon. Potter is a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center PD. An employee at McDonald's can reliably tell the difference between a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder after 26 days, and no one's life is at stake.
The New York Times used a photo of Potter from 2007, which is flattering. They should also run photos of Daunte Wright from 14 years ago when he was six. That seems fair. If they don't have a more recent photo of Potter, it's only because no one's bothered to arrest her. She'd get a brand new mug shot that's also suitable for social media.
On Monday, the Brooklyn Center police chief, Tim Gannon, told reporters that he believed that Officer Potter "had the intention" to deploy her Taser against Mr. Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday, "but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet."
Maybe Wright “had the intention" to fully comply with the cops during the stop but instead resisted arrest. There was probably confusion all around. They should re-stage this entire arrest, but unfortunately Wright's dead.
People, or as I like to call them “ghouls," have claimed this is all Wright's fault for resisting arrest in the first place. If he didn't have an outstanding warrant and had fully complied with officers, he'd still be alive. This willfully misses the point that Potter didn't mean to shoot Wright, only subdue him. That's her story at least. Officers usually wear their tasers on their non-dominant sides to avoid major oopsies like this. Tasers also look and feel different from guns.
A judge issued a warrant for Wright when he missed a Zoom court hearing earlier this month on two misdemeanor charges. The police claim he carried a pistol without a permit and ran from officers last June. These aren't capital offenses. Minnesota doesn't even have a death penalty for actual tried and convicted murderers. Gentleman Serial Killer with top hat and monocle, who politely surrenders, safely serves life in prison but a low-level offender who resists arrest gets executed at the scene. That makes no sense. I don't think racial bias is entirely the reason why killers such as Dylann Roof are arrested without incident. Cops themselves have noted that psychopaths are usually calm and controlled, so they're more likely to avoid the fight or flight response that gets other people killed.
We've also seen an escalation of rhetoric from police apologists. The justification is no longer that a suspect proved an immediate physical threat to an officer, who could reasonably argue their life was in danger. Now, it's enough for a cop to kill a civilian for failing to submit to their authority. Wright is accused of resisting arrest and trying to flee the scene. He should've lived to see the inside of a courtroom, not a morgue.
Chief Gannon insisted Monday that Potter deserves the “due process" she denied Wright when the 26-year rookie shot him dead instead of tasing him stupid. After watching the available footage, Gannon said it appeared "that this was an accidental discharge."
From the Washington Post:
The video clip shows Wright slipping from an officer's grip and returning to his car. That's when Potter pulls out her gun and yells, "I'll Tase you!" and then "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before firing.
Seconds later, Potter yells, "Holy s---, I shot him," apparently realizing that she had fired her gun instead of her Taser.
It doesn't sound like she was overwhelmed with grief. “Holy shit!" is the exclamation you make when you're helping a friend move and you drop their flat-screen TV. Potter was reportedly acting as a field training officer Sunday. How was her young Ethan Hawke trainee supposed to respond after Potter accidental discharged Wright to death? Did the trainee get extra credit or something for pointing out, “The weapon in your hand is not a taser, ma'am"?
Potter has also served as president of the local police union. She's represented other officers involved in deadly shootings, and I presume she hopes to keep that no-accountability streak running.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."