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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Kim Potter trial explainer: How does an officer use a gun instead of a Taser?

At the trial for the murder of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, a black motorist for fatally shooting Dawn Wright, the core of her defense is clear: She says she wanted to use her Taser, but Instead he grabbed his handgun.

Potter’s body-camera video recorded the shooting, in which Potter is heard saying “Taser, Taser, Taser” before firing, followed by, “I grabbed the wrong (active) gun.”

Several activists have refused to accept the former Brooklyn center officer’s explanation, and the state has argued that Potter – a 26-year police veteran – had the experience and training to know better.

Taser-gun mix-ups are rare but have occurred in several states in recent years.

Here are some questions and answers about such incidents:

How many times does this happen?

Experts agree that such incidents are rare and probably occur less than once per year across the United States. A 2012 article published in the monthly law magazine Americans for Effective Law Enforcement documented nine cases dating back to 2001 in which officers shot suspects in handcuffs when they were told to wield stun guns.

Why does this happen?

Reasons cited include officer training, the way they carry their weapons, and the pressure they feel during dangerous and chaotic situations. To avoid confusion, officers usually move their stun guns on their weaker sides – the side of their non-dominant hand – and away from the handguns they carry on the side of their dominant hand. That’s how Potter took him, and the chief of his suburban Minneapolis Police Department at the time of the shooting said that’s how the department’s officers were trained.

Bill Lewinsky, an expert in police psychology and founder of the Force Science Institute in Mankato, Minnesota, has used “slip and capture” errors to describe the phenomenon.

Lewinsky, who testified on behalf of the police, stated that officers sometimes act under stress that is contrary to their intended actions – that their actions “slip” and are “captured” by a strong reaction. . He notes that officers train more often on pulling and firing their handguns than on using their stun guns.

Potter’s defense team has an expert to testify about “slip and capture.”

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Other experts are skeptical of the theory.

“There’s no science behind it,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina and an expert on the police force. “It’s a good theory, but we don’t know if it’s true.”

Alpert said a major factor in why officers accidentally draw their shotgun is that stun guns usually look and feel like a shotgun.

What are some other cases?

In one of the most famous cases, a transit officer responding to a fight at a train station in Oakland, California killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2009. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, testified at trial that, a weapon in fear of Grant, he reached for his stun gun, but accidentally pulled out his .40-caliber handgun. Grant was shot while lying face down.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. His department paid $2.8 million to Grant’s daughter and her mother.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a white volunteer sheriff’s deputy, Robert Bates, said he accidentally fired his handgun when he wanted to deploy his stun gun at an unarmed black man, Eric Harris, who was arrested in 2015 by other officers. was captured by

Bates apologized for the murder of Harris but described his fatal mistake as a common problem in law enforcement, saying, “It has happened several times across the country… you must believe me, it happened to anyone.” Might as well be.”

Bates was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to four years in prison. Tulsa County eventually agreed to pay $6 million to Harris’ estate to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit.

In 2019, a suburban St. Louis police officer, Julia Crews, said she wanted to use her stun gun, but accidentally grabbed her service revolver and shot Ashley Hall, a suspected shoplifter, who suffered serious injuries. Crews resigned and was charged with second-degree assault. It was eventually dropped at Hall’s request after the victim and former officer agreed to participate in restorative justice arbitration. Separately, LaDew agreed to a $2 million settlement with City Hall.


Get full coverage of AP’s Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

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