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Charges Upgraded Against Minnesota Officer Who Accidentally Fired Gun Instead of Taser, Killing Daunte Wright

Charges Upgraded Against Minnesota Officer Who Accidentally Fired Gun Instead of Taser, Killing Daunte Wright

First Degree Manslaughter added by Attorney General Keith Ellison on top of previous Second Degree Manslaughter.

In early April 2021, as the trial of Derek Chauvin was winding down, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot dead Daunte Wright, leading to days of rioting and looting that became an issue in the Chauving trial as to potential juror bias.

The police officer, Kimberly Potter, asserted that the meant to pull out and fire her taser but mistakenly pulled out her service gun and fired bullets.

Video of the incident backed her up. After Wright, wanted on a warrant, broke loose while being handcuffed and got back in his car, she yelled a warning of “I’ll tase you” and “taser, taser, taser” and then reacted when she realized she fired her gun:

Nonetheless, the officer was charged with Second Degree Manslaughter. As Andrew Branca explained with respect to the Chauving trial:

… second-degree manslaughter requires that the defendant creates an unreasonable risk, and “consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm.”  If the state has not proven that the defendant intentionally engaged in conduct that had a reasonably foreseeable risk of causing death or great bodily harm, then the state has not proven the crime of second-degree manslaughter.

Both of these offenses require that the defendant engaged in conduct that was unreasonable, that created a foreseeable risk of deadly force harm, and that the defendant consciously incurred that risk or, alternatively, consciously disregarded that risk.  If any of these conditions are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the underlying crime has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In late May, the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the case.

The charges have just been upgraded by adding first degree manslaughter::

The former Minnesota police officer accused of fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic stop is now facing a more serious charge in the Black man’s death, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Kim Potter has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the killing of Wright on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. The new charge is in addition to a previously filed second-degree manslaughter charge.

The police chief at the time, Tim Gannon, has said he believes Potter meant to draw her Taser stun device but drew her handgun by mistake.

A short clip of body-camera video released by police appeared to show Wright trying to get back in his car as a female voice shouts, “Taser!”

The same female voice could be heard later saying, “Holy s— I just shot him,” as the car pulled away, police have said. The indictment says that she also said, “I grabbed the wrong f—ing gun.”

The new charge is first-degree manslaughter by recklessly handling a firearm, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office said.

According to the AG’s Office press statement:

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today filed an amended complaint in the case of State v. Kimberly Potter. The amended complaint adds an additional charge of manslaughter in the first degree, while retaining the original charge of manslaughter in the second degree.

The complaint alleges that former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter committed first-degree manslaughter by recklessly handling a firearm when she fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11, 2021. The complaint continues to allege — as the original complaint did — that Kimberly Potter committed second-degree manslaughter by culpable negligence by using a firearm.

The charging document provides:

On or about April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Hennepin County, Minnesota, Defendant Kimberly Ann Potter caused the death of Daunte Demetrius Wright, while committing the misdemeanor offense of reckless handling or use of a firearm so as to endanger the safety of another with such force and violence that death or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable.

You can read the First Degree Manslaughter statute here.

The State of Minnesota is going to get this police officer for what was a tragic, but apparently not uncommon, accident:

There is no national data on these kinds of incidents, but law enforcement experts agree that mistaking guns for stun guns, while relatively rare, does happen.

Other cases have occurred in recent years as well. An Americans for Effective Law Enforcement article from 2012 found nine more instances of these accidents between 2001 and 2009. Americans for Effective Law Enforcement is a not-for-profit research organization that focuses on criminal justice….

BBC reports:

There have also been more recent instances of a suspect being shot instead of Tasered:

  • In 2015, a man was shot dead in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a volunteer sheriff’s deputy who had accidently pulled out his handgun
  • In 2019, a police officer in St Louis, Missouri, mistakenly discharged her revolver and seriously wounded a shoplifter

Doesn’t matter. The State of Minnesota wants her convicted for reasons having nothing to do with the incident, and will spare no expense to achieve that result.

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Comments

“Doesn’t matter.”

You are right. They proved it with Chauvin, now next up to at….

    Indeed, a fentanyl-induced progressive condition that originated and prompted premature evacuation from the car and subsequent restraint, exacerbated by an assembled mob that prevented access by authorized medical personnel. Social justice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

All the police officers in Minnesota should lateral across to other states, where they will not be treated so badly.

Never been a fan of charging anyone with multiple degrees of murder for the same thing.

Pick one and stay with it.

This of course looks like they are simply trying to make sure she serves more than 10 years. She made a terrible mistake and has to pay for it but the state under Ellison is just out for blood here and not justice.

    DaveGinOly in reply to TheOldZombie. | September 9, 2021 at 12:30 am

    I agree. Pick the most egregious offense that may have possibly occurred or pick the offense you can prove, but not both. The suspect is only actually guilty of one or the other. The prosecution should certainly be able to determine which criminal statute applies and go with it. Conducting two separate prosecutions of the same act just does in parallel what the prosecution is forbidden to do serially – trying someone twice for the same criminal act.

    The Real Truth in reply to TheOldZombie. | September 9, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Another thing is that she is WHITE ! Ellison is NOT a fan of White people.

    Idonttweet in reply to TheOldZombie. | September 9, 2021 at 8:43 am

    I believe in being held accountable, but she’s going to get railroaded by overcharging, virtue signaling prosecutors just like Chauvin did. More interested in making a statement by playing on jurors’ emotions and getting a conviction that looks good for them politically than in seeing justice done. You can see it coming.

    Ghostrider in reply to TheOldZombie. | September 9, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    You are so right with your comment. This is pure, vintage Ellison. When will he get around to charging his pal gal, Omar?

It is not the police officers job to risk their life so you can safely resist arrest

Yet the guy in DC on Jan 6 did not engage in negligent homicide?

    He was a hero who elected to abort an unarmed woman in a prone and vulnerable position based on the plausible chance that she was armed and dangerous. Nothing up her sleeve, indeed. A Democrat-enhanced act of self defense and legal precedent. A progressive path and grade.

    Brave Sir Robbin in reply to oldschooltwentysix. | September 8, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    “Yet the guy in DC on Jan 6 did not engage in negligent homicide?”

    It was not negligent He meant to shoot her.

    The facts of the two cases are completely different. How can you even compare the two??

Blacks are sacred objects, so she engaged in sacrilege.

    TX-rifraph in reply to rhhardin. | September 9, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    No. Blacks are being used by leftists who do not care if Blacks live or die. Look at Baltimore or Chicago. Blacks are being used to further an agenda.

Native question, perhaps, but does an officer’s gun always have the safety off as it sits in the holster? Is that a standard?

    rabid wombat in reply to hopp singg. | September 8, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    “Native question, perhaps, but does an officer’s gun always have the safety off as it sits in the holster? Is that a standard?”

    The weapon may or may not have a ‘safety’. For example Glock do not have a conventional safety, but a safe trigger. Regardless, it is common to move a conventional safety to fire on the draw. Adequate shooters, can draw, manipulate the safety, and fire two rounds on target at 7 yards well under 2 seconds. Better ones can do this closer to 1.3 seconds or faster. The key issue here, the difference in drawing the firearm vs the Taser. Some departments have the draw from different sides to promote the difference – weapon right vs Taser left…

    Two things to remember…it appears she drew the wrong weapon (inadvertently – though fatally – in this case). And, this may be a good shoot regardless of the media portrayal. The bigger problem, trial in Minnesota….who knows if facts matter….

      The Real Truth in reply to rabid wombat. | September 9, 2021 at 8:15 am

      Unfortunately, in Minnesota facts don’t seem to matter !

        TX-rifraph in reply to The Real Truth. | September 9, 2021 at 5:34 pm

        Actually, the facts do matter but not in the way they should. The facts are being exploited to further an agenda. That should be obvious with the corrupt MN AG again taking over a police action and using it for political purposes rather than to obtain justice under the law.

    Depends on the gun…Glocks are super common and they only have a trigger safety, some Sig Sauers will have a thumb safety that can be moved to an on off position. Other pistols will have grip safeties…

      txvet2 in reply to PaulB. | September 9, 2021 at 2:04 am

      Never liked Glocks and their trigger safety. When I squeeze the trigger, I want to feel results now (as I do with my .38 Special), not wait until I’ve squeezed up the slack, as with my son’s Glock.

    If she was armed with a Glock (as many departments are), the most important safety is the trigger. Glocks have three safety mechanisms built in to avoid accidental discharge, but if you pull the trigger it will fire.

      henrybowman in reply to JMark. | September 8, 2021 at 11:33 pm

      Non-gunnies often read “accidental discharge” as “personal error” (and some are), but those non-manipulable safeties prevent accidental discharge in non-firing circumstances like drops onto concrete, collisions, being run over, etc.

      Before 1970 or so, when almost all PDs still used revolvers, NONE of their guns had manipulable safeties.

    DaveGinOly in reply to hopp singg. | September 9, 2021 at 12:44 am

    Most guns that are adopted by police can be had in a version with, and a version without, a safety. It depends on the department, as each specifies which they desire when they issue a requisition for bids.

    I see at least three problems that contributed to this shooting:
    1. The handgun and the taser are not sufficiently different for the officer to immediately know by feel which is in the hand (although they are different and shouldn’t be mistaken, see #3 below, I’m saying here they should be made significantly different so that they can’t be confused even with insufficient training)
    2. The handgun and taser (in this situation) were almost certainly both held on the same side of the belt, denying the officer a distinction between the weapons that would be natural if they were on opposite sides of the belt
    3. Insufficient training, meaning not enough repetitions with the draw of both arms to permit immediate, subconscious distinction between the two sidearms by touch (because the two weapons are not so similar that they can’t be distinguished by touch) nor enough repetitions to create the neural pathway (aka “muscle memory”) necessary to automatically grasp the weapon the brain is calling for.

No biggie. Just a “whoopsie Daisy”.

Off topic, but GIGANTIC in effect:

Media Liable For Comments Posted On Their Facebook Pages: Australian High Court:
https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/media-liable-comments-posted-their-facebook-pages-australian-high-court

One of many ironies in the case is that she would have been perfectly justified in shooting Wright, who by jumping into his car could reasonably be interpreted as going for a weapon.

This is the exact situation the high profile Jacob Blake case (also Minnessota) where Blake was shot in the back by police after he had escaped officers’ grasp and was entering his car against police orders.

As it turned out Blake did in fact have a knife in his hand when he was shot and could have turned and stabbed the officer behind him in a fraction of a second, but the officer had no way of knowing this. It was just an obvious likelihood, as it is whenever a suspect reaches into a pocket or into a vehicle against police orders.

The officer who shot Blake was deemed justified by an overview board, and Potter would likely by deemed justified as well, if only she had INTENDED to pull her gun and shoot wright.

All of which raises the likelihood that the reason she pulled her gun instead of her taser is because she knew subconsciously that she SHOULD be pulling her gun.

Officers are trained to always deploy superior force. If a suspect is thought to be going for a deadly weapon then an officer NEEDS to be using deadly force in response.

But nowadays they are also trained to avoid escalation, and implicitly to treat blacks in particular with kid gloves or face likely persecution. So her decision-making process was probably being torn in opposite directions by these multiple incompatible training directives.

In the end her brain made the right choice: shoot the suspect who against lawful police orders was likely going for a weapon.

But at the time she had been trying to follow de-escalation directives (and the implicit treat-blacks-with-kid-gloves directives), and thought that that was what she was doing, while the self-preservation part of her brain did what the situation actually required.

Overall a remarkably good performance when faced with conflicting demands in a very dangerous split-second situation.

    SeymourButz in reply to AlecRawls. | September 9, 2021 at 8:30 am

    The only way she gets out of this situation looking like a hero is if she allows her colleagues and herself to get stabbed to death. That’s where policing in America is at.

    SFC_Fuzzy in reply to AlecRawls. | September 9, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    The Jacob Blake case/incident was in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I know neighboring Great Lake states but still different! Their state AG tried to muck it up too!

    henrybowman in reply to AlecRawls. | September 9, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    It’s like Bill Cosby’s old routine about the surgeon that says “oh-oh.” Never say “oh-oh.”
    In gunland, that translates to “never say you didn’t mean to shoot him.” Nothing turns an otherwise good shoot into a bad shoot faster.

Hope this backfires on Ellison. This and other recent events kinda makes me think the rule of law has been destroyed.

    henrybowman in reply to amwick. | September 9, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Seeing how thoroughly and effectively they railroaded Chauvin, I’ve pretty much lost hope. I’d be pleased to be surprised. I also worry about Rittenhouse, which I personally believe was a good shoot.

Char Char Binks | September 9, 2021 at 10:37 am

Multiple choice for the same offense, with different degrees of the same crime, used to mean the jury could pick the appropriate charge and level to convict, or at least compromise to their satisfaction. As with Chauvin, the Potter jury will likely vote “guilty” on any and all charges offered. Who would vote “not guilty”?.

1st degree manslaughter seems a stretch. 2nd degree though? Maybe. She observed the other officer not asserting control of the suspect and intervened, but then she failed to control the suspect. Then the suspect squirmed and went to the vehicle and she drew her weapon NOT the taser.

She had distance/separation from the suspect. She failed to holster her weapon and draw the taser. She was SR. She didn’t take control of the suspect or the other LEO. Practically zero communication between her and the subordinate officer. IMO, these errors were the result of a lack of effective sustainment training.

If only she had been smart enough to intentionally shoot and kill and unarmed white woman on public property, she would be a hero.

Why would a white police officer stay on the job in places like this? You have to be delusional.

    henrybowman in reply to lichau. | September 9, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    It’s looking more and more like that’s the long-term strategy. If you can’t defund the police, force them to attrit themselves… then replace with Marxist “community guardians.”

… second-degree manslaughter requires that the defendant creates an unreasonable risk, and “consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm.”

That’s pretty much the job of a police officer when restraining a fighting suspect.

It is my hope that Ellison gets absolutely mangled by this in court and by the jury, as he deserves. Any idiot can see (and hear) that the officer did not INTEND to shoot the suspect. The taser in question is modeled and designed to mimic the feel and look of the standard Glock 22, because when used, you don’t want the officer missing with either of them.

There are two bad points about this whole fiasco: First is Daunte Wright, who placed himself squarely into this position. Had he surrendered, allowed himself to be cuffed and placed into the police car, NOTHING would have happened. It would have been like thousands of other arrests that happen every day. When you fight with cops, accidents happen. The second bad thing is that the officer is going to be dragged through the public square, rammed through a trial (or two if the jury can’t decide), and bankrupted because Ellison needs a bloody scalp to wave to his violent rioting constitutants.

Why in (censored) would anybody want to be a police officer in that state?

When I was in the police academy in the eighties we discussed ‘stun gun’ and our instructors explained why and how it could never be like a ‘Star Trek phaser’ (that was our frame of reference).

Making a gun that could stun or kill at the flip of a switch created a liability nightmare. Also creating and deploying a pistol shaped ‘stun gun’ would be nearly as dangerous.

It was only a matter of time before someone would flip the wrong switch or draw the wrong pistol and shoot someone they intended to stun.

Sure it’s easier to train handling one item or two very similar things but that’s the danger. It’s too easy to mistake the ‘stun’ or ‘kill’ settings or a plastic gripped pistol shaped taser for a plastic gripped pistol especially if both are drawn from the same side.

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