I’ve just finished watching the very, and not surprisingly, combative press conference held by Brooklyn Center, MN leadership regarding the police shooting of Daunte Wright. This included watching the body cam footage that they released and played. That video is below from Fox 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul.
WARNING, THE VIDEO IS GRAPHIC!
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described it as an accidental discharge, but that is both an antiquated and not exactly accurate description. The more accurate term, though equally banal term, is negligent discharge. It was negligent because it is clear that, as Chief Gannon described, the officer that shot and killed Daunte Wright was intending to use her taser. This is clear from the audio where she says:
I’ll tase you! I’ll tase you!
Get clear! Get clear!
TASER! TASER! TASER!
BLEEP!!! (ALS: this was either Fuck, Damn, or Shit) I shot him!
I shot him!
You can hear this in the audio in the video above. And you can see she’s holding her service GLOCK and has brought it to bear on Wright, not her Taser! And that she drops her gun/puts it down as soon as she realizes she’s shot him, which, in the video, is between the “BLEEP!!! I shot him! and “I shot him” as Wright drives off as he’s bleeding out from the wound.
The Tasers, as you can briefly see when the one on the officer trying to cuff Wright comes into focus on the video, has a yellow grip. The color is to help law enforcement distinguish it from their service weapons, regardless of make, to prevent shootings like this from happening. You can see the taser on his left hip (weak side) between the 52 and 54 second mark of the video above. It is holstered for a right handed cross draw, so the butt of the grip is facing out from the front of his body. I have no idea where the female officer’s Taser was holstered or how it was set up for draw, but it is usually they holstered on the opposite side of the body from the service firearm to prevent this from happening.
This doesn’t justify the shooting, it just explains it.
There were three officers on site and this quickly escalated from him being cuffed to a couple of seconds of scuffle before she decides to escalate to using “less than lethal” force, which, because of negligence in confusing her GLOCK with her Taser, turned into lethal force.
Daunte Wright was pulled over for expired tags, which is a running problem in Minnesota because of pandemic related delays in processing renewals. Expired tags are a misdemeanor offense. When they ran him in the computer, they got a return that he had a warrant for failing to appear after being sent a summons for a court appearance on a different misdemeanor. Neither of these things would seem to necessitate any form of escalation. Wright is not heard threatening the cops. He’s not moving towards them when he pulls away from being cuffed after the female officer intervenes while one of the two male officers is trying to cuff him. I’m not even sure why she would escalate to the Taser.
I’m going to make a semi-informed guesstimate, however. I would put money on the fact that this officer has attended a continuing education class with Bill Lewinski* and the absolutely bullshit training from his Force Science Institute, which teaches law enforcement to immediately escalate to the highest level of force lest they be killed by any interaction with the citizenry. Lewinsky created his own course of study and “field” within psychology when he did his doctorate and Canadian courts won’t allow him to provide expert testimony anymore because he is a “self proclaimed authority” on law enforcement use of force. Lewinski’s “police psychology” and his expert witness testimony justify every police shooting on the basis that police cannot wait to employ force lest they be harmed or killed. And if she didn’t take one of Lewinski’s continuing education course, then she had one on “killology”, which is equally garbage. Or one of the other similar courses that have turned too many law enforcement officers into “shoot first and don’t answer questions later” responders.
I write this as someone who has taught hundreds of law enforcement officers as a former criminology professor, as well as conducted continuing education for Federal and state law enforcement on how to conduct Engagement to deescalate situations in order to be more effective. And as someone who is a member of the Nassau County, NY Detectives Association**. Until or unless law enforcement training – both the initial entry education and especially the continuing education – is revised to remove the bullshit junk science that justifies immediate escalations of force, this is going to continue.
I expect that the community response is going to escalate, especially because some idiot prevented most of the news media from attending the press conference, so the mayor, the city manager, and Chief Gannon were predominantly taking questions from community activists.
I’ve now seen far too many of these types of press conferences and whoever is in charge of crisis communications for these departments are terrible. Too many of these pressers are combative and/or uninformative. This one was both and did far more harm than good.
The bottom line is that Daunte Wright is dead. For, at best, a pair of misdemeanors. Even if he had been adjudicated guilty of both of those misdemeanors, neither of them carry a sentence of death. Daunte Wright is dead because a cop made four errors in a matter of seconds. The first was to escalate the arrest as Wright was being handcuffed. The second was to decide the escalation warranted applying her Taser. The third was to draw her service GLOCK when, apparently, she intended to draw her Taser. And the fourth was to then pull the trigger on the GLOCK even though a GLOCK’s grip and a Taser’s grip feel very different. Daunte Wright was extrajudicially killed under cover of law because one of the three responding officers to a potential misdemeanor traffic stop.
Two things need to happen now. The first thing, which is general and applies everywhere, is this has to stop. The second is that a thorough, independent investigation needs to take place to figure out why this officers made several operational and tactical errors in short order that resulted in her shooting and killing Wright. And the lessons learned from that independent investigation need to be applied so this doesn’t happen again.
I expect that Brooklyn Center, MN is going to be a powder keg until explanations are forthcoming.
** During my year teaching criminology in New York, prior to leaving academia and going to work for and with the military, one of my students was the then Deputy Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department. He took my graduate research design and methods and graduate statistical analysis classes. I provided a small amount of analytical support to him and his department after he’d completed my classes and my membership in the Detectives Association was his way of thanking me. The membership got me a lapel pin, which is the crest of the Detectives Association, a money clip that has the crest of the Detective Association, and a membership card. Interestingly, he encouraged me to leave academia. He said to me one day: “What the hell are you doing wasting your time doing this for? What you can do is needed and can be put to better use elsewhere.” Two months later I’d quit rather than fix student grades and three weeks after that when I was recruited to go to work for the Army I took that job. And that ultimately led me to you lovely people…