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Posted under: News Social Justice

Killing Of Daunte Wright Draws Comparison To 2009 Shooting Of Oscar Grant

Experts said cases of officers accidently using their firearms instead of a stun gun happen less than once a year.

The latest incident involving an officer who killed a Black man after accidentally drawing her gun instead of a Taser is drawing comparison to the 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant.

Daunte Wright was shot and killed by former officer Kim Potter in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Wright's mother, Katie, said her son called during the encounter, saying he was being pulled over for air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror. The officer was heard yelling "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before firing a handgun and screaming "Holy s**t! I shot him." 

According to the Baltimore Sun, former officer Johannes Mehserle testified with a similar explanation in the killing of Grant. The officer said he mistakenly pulled his .40-caliber handgun while reaching for his stun gun at a train station in Oakland, California, fearing that the young man had a weapon. 

Mehserle, who shot the 22-year-old as he lay face down, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to only two years in prison. The police department was also forced to pay $2.8 million to Grant’s daughter and her mother.

As Blavity previously reported, Grant's death was one of the first police shootings caught on cellphone video. Despite video of the incident which showed the young man being shot in the back, a judge ruled that the officer should be released early for good conduct

Other cases are being compared to the shooting of 20-year-old Wright, who died shortly after the officer shot him during a traffic stop over the weekend.

Another similar encounter took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2015 when Robert Bates shot his firearm instead of his stun gun, killing Eric Harris, an unarmed Black man who was being held down by other officers.

“This has happened a number of times around the country. You must believe me, it can happen to anyone,” Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, said.

Julia Crews, a suburban St. Louis police officer, gave the same explanation in 2019 after shooting Ashley Hall, a suspected shoplifter who suffered serious injuries.

Experts said such types of cases probably happen less than once a year nationwide. A 2012 article, published in the monthly law journal of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, looked at encounters dating back to 2001 and documented nine cases in which officers accidentally shot their firearm instead of a stun gun.

Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, said officers make the mistake because their stun guns typically look and feel like a firearm.

St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Melvin Carter raised the same concern.

“Why do we even have Tasers that operate and function and feel and deploy exactly like a firearm?” Carter questioned during a news conference on Monday. “Why can’t we have Tasers that look and feel different? That you could never mistake for deploying a firearm so that we can ensure that mistake that has happened before can never happen again?”

As Blavity previously reported, Brooklyn Center Police Department Chief Tim Cannon said officers are trained to carry their handguns on their dominant side, while their tasers should be carried on their non-dominant one. 

“As I watched the video and listened to the officers commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Cannon said during a Monday press conference. "This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s distress and reaction immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge.”

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