On Sunday, April 11th, a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright was pulled over by police officers in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. What should have been a routine stop turned deadly. After asking Wright to get out of the car, an officer yelled “Taser!” but shot Wright with a gun. Wright got back into the car, driving for a short distance before getting into a car accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Brooklyn Center police are saying Wright’s death is the result of an “accidental discharge,” which sounds less like an accident and more like gross negligence. At best. How many times do Black men need to die at the hands of the police before we really start to do something about it?
“Accidental discharge” is what happens when a person ejaculates too quickly. That is not a good enough reason to explain why a cop shot a young man dead. I’m sorry, but you don’t “accidentally” shoot a gun and kill someone. Not if you’re allegedly trained to use your weapons. If you’re unable to tell the difference between a taser and a gun, you definitely shouldn’t have access to either of those things. Even if they were planning to tase Wright, aiming directly at his heart or chest feels like a recipe for disaster. In fact, Taser themselves started warning police forces in 2009 to not aim the darts at a person’s chest, due to mounting evidence of cardiac risks. If the officer was simply trying to stop Wright from getting away, there had to be a better way than to shoot anything at him as a way to immobilize.
When people talk about defunding the police, this is why. If the officer who shot Daunte Wright couldn’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun, they needed more training before having access to those weapons. And not necessarily training on how to properly handle their weapons, though that’s probably helpful. They clearly need training in how to deal with these high intensity situations. An officer should not only learn how to make sure they have the right weapon, they should maybe not default to automatically grabbing a deadly weapon which will further minimize these “mistakes.” A taser is still incredibly dangerous, and if they’re not paying proper attention, they can still kill someone by deploying it incorrectly. In these high pressure situations, it’s not just about the safety of the officer — it’s also about the safety of the person they’ve stopped.
Police have been given way too much power in this country. They’re asked to do way too much, and we need to take some of that power back and disperse it to other community support resources. Officers should be receiving regular, ongoing training in how to deal with the general public. And they absolutely should undergo bias training to help them deal with communities of color, especially the Black community. Learning how to de-escalate high intensity situations, especially if they feel they could be in danger, is crucial.
According to multiple reports, the officers asked Daunte Wright to get out of the car after discovering there was a warrant out for his arrest. When they asked him to get out of the car, they didn’t say why. Even if a person is being arrested, they have the right to know why. The police should have told Wright what was happening when they asked him to get out of the car. Even if they didn’t have details on the warrant, he deserves to know why they’re getting him out of the car. Initially, he did comply with the police, but then he decided to try to get into the car. And sure, he may have tried to run, but we know how policing works in this country, so he had everyone reason to be fearful and scared.
There was absolutely no reason to shoot at this young man. He should still be alive today.
If you watch the footage of the police stop, the officer who shot Daunte Wright expressed shock right after shooting him. It’s astounding that a person who is paid to use weapons couldn’t manage to tell the difference between a taser and a fucking gun. A taser isn’t as heavy as a gun, so as soon as she pulled it, she should have realized her mistake. Also, police don’t usually wear their tasers and guns next to each other, but on opposite sides of their belt. Brooklyn Center Police Chief confirms this is the case for his department, where officers are trained to carry their handgun on their dominant side and their Taser on their weak side.
So, it’s easy to see why folks are arriving at the conclusion that Officer Kim Potter intended to reach for her handgun, not the stun gun.
Far too many “routine” traffic stops end up with a dead Black man. And no matter what, there’s no reason that should be happening. In every single one of these cases, the police officers who committed the crime walked free. So tell me how that’s fair and equitable? Tell me more about how systemic racism doesn’t exist.
Right now, Officer Kim Potter is on administrative leave, which is absolute bullshit. Because that means she’s still being paid even though she killed a man. In this case Mike Elliott, the Brooklyn Center mayor, a Black man and Liberian immigrant, has called for the officer to be fired.
“My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” Elliott said in a press conference, reported The New York Times.
Firing the officer responsible for Daunte Wright’s death is literally the bare minimum in a situation like this. Whether it was accidental or not, she killed an innocent man. She shouldn’t just be placed on leave where she still gets to collect a fucking paycheck. Her job should have been taken away immediately. Especially once the body cam footage was released. Because her saying, “Oh shit, I shot him,” is damning evidence of her gross negligence. If there was evidence that someone in a different field fucked up so epically, they’d be fired, and they certainly wouldn’t be collecting a paycheck. But police officers can have an “accidental discharge,” kill someone and get put on paid leave. What the actual fuck? She better be fired, arrested and tried for murder.
This is beyond ridiculous.
Brooklyn Center, the city where Daunte Wright was murdered, is only 10 miles away from Minneapolis. Minneapolis is currently getting attention as the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, the officer who is being tried for the murder of George Floyd last spring continues. But what happened to Wright and Floyd isn’t only a problem in Minnesota. It’s a problem all over the country. But we continue to treat these as isolated events, and despite the overwhelming evidence, not the symptom of a much larger problem. And that’s the biggest problem of all.
When he was pulled over, Daunte Wright called his mother and texted his brother to let them know what was going on. His girlfriend sat in the passenger’s seat and witnessed the whole thing. Katie Wright heard parts of the confrontation before someone hung up the phone. The next call she gets, she’s finding out that her son is dead. We’ve heard too many different versions of the story before. It’s becoming far too commonplace, and people are just accepting it. Racist folks jump to defending the police without question, and show their true colors every time.
Black women shouldn’t have to keep watching their partners being murdered by police right in front of them. No more Black mothers should have to get a call saying their sons are dead. Families shouldn’t have to continue to expose their pain on the nightly news only to not see justice.
Last summer, people finally started to get it after watching George Floyd die. We need that same kind of reaction for Daunte Wright. Daunte died needlessly at the hands of an incompetent police officer. What happened is not okay, and we cannot stay silent. We must fight to hold the right people accountable. No more Black people should die at the hands of the police.
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