You know a police shooting is unjustified when the first explanation from the department is that it was the result of an accidental discharge. That excuse might work on a prom date, but anyone with half a brain should realize that he (or in this case she) was just too excited and inexperienced to perform adequately. That was the case when a yet to be identified officer shot and killed Daunte Wright according to the Brooklyn Center Police Department, but was it something more? It seems awful convenient for the BCPD to blame this clearly unjustified shooting on an accidental discharge.
This "accidental" discharge was caught on video by body cameras. Some of that footage was played by BCPD Chief Tim Gannon at a press conference today. We have a copy of the video embedded below this article. In this video you can hear officers confirm that Wright had a warrant and they asked him not to run. Wright fled into his car in an obvious effort to flee. This gave officers the lawful right to use less than lethal force to capture him, but because he was not endangering anyone they had no right to shoot him. The officer wearing the body camera can be heard saying "I'll tase yah" followed by "taser, taser taser" as if she were trying to warn the other officers to get away from Wright to avoid getting tased themselves. At this point one would expect to see a taser in her hand, but instead you can clearly see a 9MM handgun. She then shot Wright and as he drove away she could be heard saying "I just shot him." Chief Gannon believes that this was an accident because the officer thought she was holding a taser when she intentionally pulled the trigger. To Gannon's credit, the officer's reaction after shooting Wright is not what you would typically expect from someone who had just shot someone intentionally, but it is also what one might expect from an actress trying to make it look like an accident. Absent further proof as to her state of mind we must conclude that there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to sustain a charge of murder in a court of law at this time. She should however be charged with manslaughter at a minimum.
This case could create a dangerous precedent capable of allowing anyone to get away with murder simply by carrying a taser and yelling "taser taser taser" when shooting someone. Before long everyone with an itchy trigger finger would be carrying a taser in addition to their gun just so they could call it an accident and lower their liability to manslaughter. It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone a trained police officer, would not know the difference between a taser and a gun. Was her safety not on? The safety mechanisms on guns and tasers are not the same. Surely any reasonable person familiar with both devices would know the difference the second they had to disable the safety. Plus, they do not look the same. At one point she is clearly aiming down the sight of her gun while yelling "taser." How could she not know the difference? Was she not sober? Was she required to take a drug test afterwards? Those are all good questions to ask. We find it hard to believe that she was just a ditz that never should have been a cop in the first place, but stranger things have happened. Police officers are trained to yell out things to make things sound different than they really are. For instance, officers often yell "stop resisting" while beating helpless detainees that are not resisting. They yell "stop resisting" because they know the body cams will hear that while moving so fast that they only record a blur. Then the officers will offer the audio as evidence that the suspect was resisting. The same could be true in this case. The officer could have decided to shoot Wright rather than risk him driving away and having to pursue him. Knowing that deadly force could not legally be used an officer could decide to yell "taser" and act surprised after opening fire.
UPDATE: The shooter has been identified as Kim Potter