April 14, 2021

Daunte Wright Shooting

“The police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun, as the man struggled with police, the city’s police chief said Monday… Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting death Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright as ‘an accidental discharge.’” AP News

Both sides condemn the shooting:

“Some tasers have similar design — not exactly similar but roughly similar — to handguns, which obviously helps with some aspects of training in how to operate them. But the different weapons do not feel the same, they do not weigh the same (tasers can be considerably lighter), and they do not operate the same way. To avoid the minute potential of confusion, cops are typically trained to carry the taser on the weak-hand side (the firearm is on the strong side)…

“This kind of mistake does not happen with anything close to the frequency that would allow portraying it as a reasonable or excusable error. That is a separate issue from the question of whether it can be an honest mistake. It can, but it is grossly negligent and criminally actionable, nonetheless.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“Even if Wright’s shooting was an accident, as Potter claims, shouldn’t police officers at least have better training to avoid this outcome? This is not the first time a cop has claimed she meant to fire her Taser and instead shot her gun. To understand how often this so-called ‘weapons confusion’ occurs, I called up Gerald Takano, a retired police officer in Raleigh, North Carolina, who has studied the problem extensively and is a use-of-force expert. Years ago, he developed a training program to help officers in his state avoid the mistake, but he says most police departments around the country have not done the same. ‘There’s no reason to believe it’s going to diminish until it’s addressed systemically, nationwide,’ he says of these shootings.”
Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Even if Officer Potter killed Wright by accident… police regularly shoot people unnecessarily when they resist arrest, make furtive or sudden movements, or reach abruptly into their cars. By law, these are considered reasonable grounds for lethal force…

“If the types of reform that have enough popular support to become law continue to be items like mandating the use of body cameras; expanded data collection; and creating uniform national standards for the use of force, a ban on chokeholds, and ending qualified immunity — which would allow police to be sued for violating people’s rights — Americans can both expect a reduction in rates of police violence against civilians and be confident that killings like Wright’s will continue to happen with unconscionable frequency…

“That’s because none of these proposals will change the function of the police. Their trade is violence. They can be compelled to be more discreet and judicious, but they cannot stop. This is an acceptable trade-off for many people, who believe their personal welfare depends on this brand of violent intervention. But to those for whom deaths like Wright’s are truly unacceptable, it’s worth thinking harder about what changes would actually prevent them. To do otherwise is to concede that deaths like his are the cost of doing business.”
Zak Cheney-Rice, New York Magazine

Others note that “Just over half of Americans, according to USA Today/Ipsos, oppose redirecting police funds to social services (57 percent) while 43 percent supported the idea — a slight decline from last August. The only thing most people can seem to agree on — even at the height of the protests after Floyd’s death — is that they’re against the idea of defunding the police. And this remains true today, even among Black Americans and Democrats…

“That said, Americans — both Democrats and Republicans — want some sort of reform… nearly three-fourths of Americans (71 percent) either support or strongly support a federal ban on police chokeholds. Seventy-one percent of respondents also want to end police racial profiling, while 84 percent are in favor of mandating body camera use.”
Alex Samuels, FiveThirtyEight

“The Stanford Open Policing Project, a database of more than 200 million traffic stops, found that in St. Paul, not far from where Wright was killed, Black drivers are a little over three times more likely than white drivers to be pulled over; in San Jose, California, Black drivers are six times more likely to be stopped. Arguably, drivers of all races ought to be stopped at about the same rate — failing to signal or missing a sudden change in speed limit would seem to be mistakes anyone could make. This has led to a number of researchers trying to understand this disparity, and, in general, these studies suggest that the issue has to do with officer bias, conscious or unconscious, that casts Black people as inherently more dangerous than their white counterparts.”
Sean Collins, Vox

From the Right

“The investigation must answer how an officer may have mistaken her gun for a taser, but we’ve seen nothing that suggests racial animus drove Ms. Potter to pull the trigger. Public officials nonetheless rushed to render their verdict. ‘Now we have another name added to Philando [Castile], Jamar [Clark], George [Floyd], and Daunte will now be added to that,’ said Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, referring to other black men killed by police. Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday that Wright ‘should be alive today,’ but ‘folks will keep dying if we don’t fully address racial injustice and inequities in our country, from implicit bias to broken systems.’…

“Credit President Biden for encouraging forbearance. ‘Was it an accident? Was it intentional? That remains to be determined,’ he said Monday, adding that while ‘peaceful protest is understandable,’ there is ‘absolutely no justification for violence.’ The bedlam in Brooklyn Center and elsewhere creates fresh injustices while resolving nothing.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“It’s all horrible: Wright was just 20. Yet the mayhem that followed was terrible, too. Within hours, hundreds of ‘protesters’ gathered. Some threw bricks and cans at cops, jumped on their vehicles and even ‘shot up’ a police station, as the chaos spread to Minneapolis and beyond. The ensuing looting rampage all but destroyed several businesses…

“This, when local authorities are rushing to do the right thing: conduct a full investigation, figure out what went wrong and take steps to prevent a recurrence. Even if Potter were a racist murderer — and there’s zero sign of that — burning everything down only hurts the community.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“Crime was already increasing in Minneapolis last year, perhaps ­because of the pandemic, but took off after the death of Floyd and subsequent riots. The city saw its most murders since 1995, when it was nicknamed ‘Murderapolis.’ In its wisdom, the uber-progressive city council there cut funding for the police, even as the force was depleted by retirements…

“Not surprisingly, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the rise in violent crime hit poor neighborhoods hardest. A new study released on the Social Science Research network examined cities with Black Lives Matter protests from 2014 to 2019 and found that lethal use of force by cops declined enough to account for roughly 300 fewer deaths. On the other hand, the study found a 10 percent increase in homicides, resulting in 1,000 to 6,000 more deaths…

“There must be a better way. It would start by not smearing the police as such after every shooting. It would include the strongest possible condemnation of any violence in the streets, rather than the muddled, euphemistic practice of referring to protests that descend into riots and looting as ‘largely peaceful.’ It would ­acknowledge the absolute necessity of robust policing to protect the most violence-plagued neighborhoods.”
Rich Lowry, New York Post

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