The police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright on Sunday apparently intended to use her Taser on him, body camera footage shows—but she drew and discharged the wrong weapon.
Police released that body camera footage during a press conference Monday afternoon, refusing to identify the officer who killed Wright. She is a “very senior officer” who is now on administrative leave, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said. She killed a man as a result of—at best—gross incompetence, and she’s on administrative leave during an investigation.
The body camera footage shows police arresting Wright, who had been pulled over ostensibly because of an air freshener on his rearview mirror and then found to have an arrest warrant. After initially complying, Wright tried to get into his car and escape them. “I’ll tase you,” the female officer shouts. Then, “Taser taser taser.” Then, “Oh, shit, I just shot him.”
Gannon told reporters: “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to employ their taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” Of the subsequent decision to use rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, Gannon said: “Police action is made by me, the decision is made by me. Does that answer your question?” Yeah. More than one of them. But it raises others.
Normally I’m not a fan of watching videos of police killing Black people for no real reason. I don’t need to see that kind of racist violence. But in this case the level of incompetence is in itself an important point—one that can’t be separated from the racism, let’s be clear. From what sure looks like a pretextual stop for the purpose of harassing a young Black man to the idea that Tasing someone in that circumstance is a reasonable response to a mistake of that level made by a very senior officer who presumably was not suffering from rookie jitters, the lack of care with human life is itself an indictment. And this kind of incompetence isn’t unique to this police killing: The Louisville, Kentucky, police who murdered Breonna Taylor were also a case study in incompetence. But when some people but not others fall victim to that level of incompetence, we see whose lives are valued enough for the police to take care to preserve them and who is seen as disposable.
The video is valuable, but it’s also horrible. Give some thought as to whether to watch it.