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Monday, January 24, 2022

A witness at Potter’s trial: stress can cause gun confusion


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Police officers may mistakenly draw pistols instead of stun guns in stressful situations because their ingrained training is taking over, a psychologist testified Friday at the manslaughter trial of Kim Potter, a Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed a black motorist. Dount Wright.

Lawrence Miller, who teaches at Florida Atlantic University, testified that the more someone repeats the same action, the less they need to think about it, and during a stressful situation circumstances can arise in which a person’s normal reactions can be “stolen “.

Miller testified on behalf of the 49-year-old Potter, who shot Wright during a traffic stop on April 11 at Brooklyn Center after he pulled away from the cops as they tried to arrest him and returned to his car before Potter shot him. The video of the TV camera recorded her shouting: “I’ll take you off!” and “Stun gun, stun gun, stun gun!” before firing once.

The death of Wright, a 20-year-old black, sparked angry demonstrations in Brooklyn Center for several days. This happened when another white officer, Derek Choven, was brought to trial in nearby Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd.

In addition to claiming that Wright’s death was a tragic mistake, Potter’s lawyers also stated that it would have been justified for her to use lethal force to prevent Wright from leaving and possibly taking one of Potter’s co-workers away.

Prosecutors say Potter was an experienced officer who was thoroughly trained in the use of the stun gun, including warnings about the danger of confusing it with a pistol. They must prove recklessness or guilty negligence in order to obtain a conviction for manslaughter.

Miller said that when a person learns a new skill, the memory of the old skill can override it, resulting in an “action error,” in which the planned action has an unintended effect.

“You intend to do one thing, you think you are doing it, but you are doing something else, and only later do you realize that the action you intended to do was not the one you took,” he said.

Miller said this happens all the time and is often trivial, such as when the year is shown on a check in early January. There are also examples of more serious examples of error in action, he said, such as when a doctor can use an old approach to treating someone, even after being trained in a new one.

The person who makes the mistake “thinks they are doing one thing and doing another,” Miller said. “When the intended result is not achieved, they become aware of it,” he said.

“If these are circumstances of high stress, extremely high arousal,” the person is more prone to mistakes that could put their lives in danger, ”said Miller, who said the most common example of“ gun confusion ”is when an officer confuses a stun gun. …

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He said it was called “slip and grab,” which means that in a state of intense arousal and hyper focus, the ability to choose the right response escapes and is “captured” by the more congealed knowledge that the person has had for a long time. longer time.

Some experts are skeptical about the theory. Jeffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who is not involved in the Potter trial, said there was no science behind it.

During cross-examination, Attorney Erin Eldridge read to Miller a 2010 article he wrote describing how the police can avoid what he called “one big mistake.” He wrote that many of these mistakes can be prevented with proper training and practice.

The defense began its version on Thursday. Among the witnesses was then-Potter executive Tim Gannon. Gannon called Potter a “fine officer” and said he “saw no violation” of her policy at the traffic stop.

Gannon resigned two days after the shooting, stating that he was actually kicked out because he did not fire Potter immediately. Potter retired the same day.

Gannon testified that from the DVR it seemed to him that Sgt. Michal Johnson, who was helping at the stop, “leaned” against Wright’s car. He said that in his opinion, the lethal force was reasonable.

Force use expert Stephen Ijames, former Assistant Chief of Police in Springfield, Missouri. Ijamez also testified that the officers were required by law to arrest Wright after they discovered that he had a warrant for a gun violation.

Ijamez also testified that it was unlikely that Wright could have left if Potter had actually used her stun gun. This contradicted the use of force expert, who had previously testified that using a pistol or stun gun on Wright would make matters worse because he could be incapacitated and his vehicle could become a weapon.

After Potter shot Wright, his car took off and a few seconds later crashed into an oncoming car, injuring a passenger and someone in the other car.

Ijamez, who said he wrote the stun gun policy for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told the court Thursday that he disagreed with the use of force expert Seth Stoughton, who testified that Potter was too close to Wright for a stun gun. to be effective.

The defense also called in several characteristic Potter witnesses, who testified that she was a peaceful person.

The case is heard mostly by a white jury.


Associated Press contributors Tammy Webber of Fenton, Michigan and Scott Bauer of Madison, Wisconsin contributed to this report.


Find full coverage of the Dunte Wright case at AP: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

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