The Harm of Calling Daunte Wright’s Death an Accident
Giving the police the benefit of the doubt undermines the victims
Protesters took to the streets after hearing the news. A Brooklyn Center officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Many wondered how this could happen again. Another unarmed Black man lost his life from a police encounter. Wright died a few miles away from Minneapolis, where George Floyd’s death played on repeat. The jury has yet to deliberate Derek Chauvin’s guilt, though that day will soon arrive. The physical and thematic proximity of these cases shocked an already grieving community. Kim Potter, a 26-year-old veteran of the force, and the police chief have since resigned from their positions. But, before they did, they helped set the narrative. They claimed Wright’s death was an accident and the media quoted them as such.
“It is my belief the officer meant to deploy their Taser but shot him with a single bullet,” Chief Gannon said, adding: “There’s nothing I can say to lessen the pain.”
The officer fired a single shot at Wright. That much is undeniable. But the concept of his death being a mistake is an opinion. It speaks to motive or alleged lack thereof. That’s something a jury would have to decide if this case ever makes it before one. While the chief claimed there was nothing he could say to lessen the pain, his opinion caused Wright’s family further harm.
The Wright family pushed back on the idea that officer Potter mistakenly shot Wright. The officer saying “Taser” before shooting Wright doesn’t exonerate her. The narrative of this description as an accident defends the officer’s actions. It also diminishes the harm caused to Wright’s body. The cameras were rolling, and the officers on the scene knew that. That’s the context in which we should evaluate them. Her statements can become evidence used to defend her behavior. Yet, it is not a definitive rationale. Advocates point out that she was on the force for 26 years and trained other officers as part of her job. Yet, she claimed she mistakenly fired her gun that day.
“An accident is knocking over a glass of milk. It’s not an accident to take your gun out of the holster,” [Wright family attorney Jeff] Storms told reporters Tuesday in Minneapolis. “It’s not…