Witness statements are ongoing in the manslaughter test of the old Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Police officer Kim Potter in the death of Daunte Wright, 20, in Minneapolis, renewing attention to the police use of force debate and raising questions about how an officer might confuse a handgun with a stun gun.

“Every Taser course I know of emphasizes not inadvertently pulling one when you need the other,” said David Katz, former Senior Special Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Founder and CEO of Global Security Group. “This is why most departments use the Taser in a cross firing position, which is separate from the solid side holster for the regular firearm.”

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Betsy Brantner Smith, retired sergeant and spokesperson for the National Police Association, said the cross-draw position is meant to reduce risk, but mistakes always happen.

This prosecution-supplied image shows Constable Kim Potter’s duty belt as the state delivers its opening statement before Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. Potter, a former military officer Brooklyn Center police, on trial April 11. 2021, death of Daunte Wright.
(TV court via AP, swimming pool)

“This type of error happens,” she said. “She’s not the first and probably won’t be the last to see these mistakes happen. They are rare, but they do.”

Katz questioned the usefulness of having a handgun-shaped stun gun to begin with and suggested modifying future products to make them easily differentiated. One possibility would be to build them with thumb triggers, he said.

“The tactile sense would be made completely unique,” ​​he said.

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Brantner Smith said any design changes to law enforcement stun guns should take a few factors into account. The pistol grip is useful, she says, because it allows officers to keep a stun gun in their hand if someone tries to disarm them. They also need a stun gun that they can quickly get in and out of a holster.

Wright died on April 11 after a traffic stop in the Brooklyn Center outside Minneapolis.

Potter, a field training officer at the time, tried to stop Wright from escaping after body camera video shows he broke free from Officer Anthony Luckey, a trainee , during an attempted arrest and got into the driver’s seat of his vehicle.

She yelled “Taser” several times, but pulled out a handgun and shot it into Wright’s body a few inches away. The car crashed a short distance down the road and Wright died of his injuries. “Taser” is a brand name referring to a type of stun gun.

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Potter’s defense team maintains that the shooting was an accident, and a heart-wrenching body camera video shows the shooting and its aftermath, in which Potter appears distraught after realizing what happened.

In this screenshot from police video, prosecutor Erin Eldridge shows evidence of Daunte Wright's traffic shutdown as she delivers the state's opening statement in the former's trial. Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter.

In this screenshot from police video, prosecutor Erin Eldridge shows evidence of Daunte Wright’s traffic shutdown as she delivers the state’s opening statement in the former’s trial. Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter.
(TV court via AP, swimming pool)

“It’s his rookie, his rookie, who makes that first arrest, and he’s doing it badly,” Brantner Smith said of the first meeting. “So she has a process that she is monitoring to make sure the rookie doesn’t get hurt.”

It could have been mentally taxing, Brantner Smith said, noting that Potter only had seconds to act.

“The role of a Field Training Officer – and I have done it for many years – is extremely stressful,” said Brantner Smith. “Because you not only pay attention to yourself and your own activities, but you are constantly evaluating and monitoring this recruit that you are training.”

With Wright in trouble, Luckey and another officer, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, leaned over the vehicle to try to stop it.

Potter yelled a warning at Wright.

“I’m going to taser you,” she said twice in the video. But instead, she shoots him once.

“I grabbed the wrong gun,” she said then, followed by “Holy shit, I just shot him.”

Experts have estimated to The Associated Press that cases of officers mistaking their handgun for a stun gun occur less than once a year. According to an article in Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, there have been nine documented cases since 2001.

Posters stand on the South Lawn on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis ahead of the trial of former Minneapolis suburban police officer Kim Potter.

Posters stand on the South Lawn on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis ahead of the trial of former Minneapolis suburban police officer Kim Potter.
(Associated press)

A similar incident happened in St. Louis in 2019. And in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2015, a sheriff’s deputy named Robert Bates said he mistook his firearm for his stun gun and shot Eric Harris down. , a black man who was unarmed.

Bates was sentenced to four years in prison for second degree manslaughter, but was released after a year and a half, Tulsa World reported.

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And about six years earlier, transit cop Johannes Mehserle was responding to a report of a scuffle at a train station in Oakland, Calif., In early New Year’s Day 2009, when he shot dead Oscar Grant, 22, as the unarmed man lay on the floor.

A protester holds a sign outside a moving police line in Oakland, Calif., Following a guilty verdict for Johannes Mehserle.  The former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer was convicted in Los Angeles of shooting unarmed black man Oscar Grant on New Years Day 2009 at a BART station in Oakland.

A protester holds a sign outside a moving police line in Oakland, Calif., Following a guilty verdict for Johannes Mehserle. The former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer was convicted in Los Angeles of shooting unarmed black man Oscar Grant on New Years Day 2009 at a BART station in Oakland.
(Associated press)

Mehserle said he intended to grab his stun gun. He was eventually found guilty of involuntary slaughter. The police department ultimately paid Grant’s family $ 2.8 million.

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As for Daunte Wright’s gunshot death in 2021, Potter faces first and second degree manslaughter charges. She could be sentenced to 15 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge.

Prosecutors have already indicated their intention to attempt a longer sentence.


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