Finish the sentence. Don’t you wonder, as I do, how this can possibly happen again? On April 11, 2021, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-young black man, was shot by Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer, Kimberly Potter, during a routine traffic stop.
You’ve seen the video—Wright is pulled over for ‘who knows what’ and officers learn of an outstanding misdemeanor (minor) warrant for his arrest. Body camera footage outside his vehicle show police attempting to handcuff Wright, when he suddenly tries to bolt, prompting a struggle with officers.
"I'll tase ya," Officer Potter warns Wright as he tries to kick her.
"Taser, Taser, Taser!" Potter screams in the video. A shot is heard. "Oh shit! I just shot him," she cries.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon speculated that Potter accidently shot Wright, intending to Taser him, but discharged her firearm instead. After being shot, Wright drove several blocks before crashing into another vehicle and hitting a concrete barrier. He was pronounced dead at the scene. As I write this, police have just arrested Potter—prosecutors have announced their intent to charge her with second degree manslaughter.
What’s the deal with these cops? They know they are under a microscope. Yet these incidents continue to happen. “I thought my gun was my taser”? Give me a break! Grip, size, and weight are all different. Did you see the video of Lt Caron Nazario being pepper-sprayed by cops in Virginia? Nazario and Wright were detained for non-criminal behavior. While Floyd was detained on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill, Nazario and Wright were pulled over for questionable vehicle tag and plate offenses.
During the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer who shot and killed George Floyd, defense attorneys are putting Floyd on trial, arguing that fentanyl was in Floyd’s blood, and suggesting his real cause of death was opioid abuse. Seriously? Without Chauvin’s knee on his neck, Floyd would have dropped dead on the spot, anyway? Does anyone really believe that? However, expect to hear the same type of argument in the Wright case. “He brought about his own death by resisting arrest” will be the refrain.
In addition to due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a trial in criminal cases, since when are passing counterfeit bills, abusing drugs, or failing to renew vehicle tags, death penalty offenses? Police officers arrest—judges and juries decide guilt and mete out punishment. However, in these cases, and so many before them, black men and women have died at the hands of white police officers who take the law into their own hands, becoming cop, judge, jury, and executioner.
Equality under laws is not a slogan -- it is a constitutional mandate. Yet, this fundamental constitutional right is too frequently denied to the black community. The families of Michael
Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddy Gray, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Stephon Clark, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and now, Daunte Wright, know this all too well. Police officer training and retraining techniques need a total reboot. Racial insensitivity or inherent racial bias must be rooted out and those who demonstrate such traits or tendencies must be relieved of duty. And keep your gun in your holster unless your life is in imminent danger. These must be the unwavering mandates of ‘defund the police’.
Mark M. Bello is the author of Betrayal in Black and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers.