Daunte Wright’s death was no accident | Solomon Jones
It is the result of a system that continues to take Black lives with impunity.
I don’t care that Kim Potter, the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a Minnesota car stop, has resigned. I don’t care that Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon stepped down, either. I’m still enraged. Not just because Wright died needlessly, but also because those who are tasked with explaining such incidents think we’re stupid.
The fateful encounter took place Sunday in Brooklyn Center, Minn. — a suburb just 10 miles from the Minneapolis courthouse where former officer Derek Chauvin is being tried on murder charges after George Floyd died under the weight of Chauvin’s knee. Wright was driving when officers pulled him over. They claimed they did so because he had an expired registration, but Wright called his mother during the ordeal and told her he was stopped for dangling an air freshener in the car, which clashes with Minnesota law.
When the officers ran his name and discovered that Wright had a warrant for his arrest, they tried to arrest him, but Wright managed to get back into his car and tried to drive away. Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, then shouted, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before shooting Wright in the chest with her service weapon. Wright died of his injuries.
After protests erupted, police chief Gannon said at a press conference that he believed Potter intended to deploy her Taser when she “accidentally” shot Wright. His outrageous excuse prompted sharp criticism and ultimately led to his resignation — rightfully so. The conditions that make police officers comfortable with using deadly force against Black people are no accident. The systems that protect them from consequences are no accident. And when a white 26-year veteran who is a field training officer shoots a Black man while claiming that she mistook her service weapon for a Taser, I do not believe that’s an accident. In my view, it is murder, and resigning is not enough. Potter must face criminal charges.
We can’t keep pretending that race is some tangential element in these police shootings. Nor can we continue to delude ourselves into believing that if police had the right training or equipment, the outcome would be different. Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, was not shot and killed by Philadelphia police officers because the officers did not have Tasers. Daunte Wright, a Black man, was not shot and killed by a Minnesota suburb police officer because she thought she had a Taser. Wallace and Wright were killed because they were Black men, and our system of policing is mired in racism.
In June of last year, Harvard released the results of a four-year study on police violence which concluded that Black Americans, on average, are more than three times as likely as white people to be killed during an encounter with police.
Those who support police inevitably say that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. They say that Black people would live through such encounters if they just complied and stopped resisting. In fact, that kind of reasoning is one of the pillars of the defense of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer currently being tried for murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes.
However, there are two words that expose that and every other excuse as a lie: Jan. 6.
On that day, an overwhelmingly white hoard of violent insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election. Police officers told them to stop, then physically tried to halt their advance.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was Tasered and badly beaten on the steps of the U.S. Capitol while some in the mob shouted that they should “Kill him with his own gun!” Officer Brian Sicknick died after fighting the mob, and over 140 officers were injured.
The white mob did not comply with the orders of the police. They did not stop resisting. They put officers in fear of their lives, yet with thousands of white people engaging in that violent behavior, officers shot and killed one person, Ashli Babbitt, that day.
Daunte Wright’s death was no accident. It is the result of a system that takes Black lives with impunity. Unless we realize that basic truth, Black people will never be safe.