This is more than an accident

Screen capture from a video of the vigil for Daunte Wright.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil in Brooklyn Center Monday night near the site where a police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright. (Crowd video here.) It ended by 7 p.m., the start of a curfew imposed by Gov. Tim Walz.

Many residents ignored the curfew and clashed with police during the evening.

In a media conference today, Brooklyn Center officials spoke to the “tragic” events and the community’s grief, but failed to speak to the community’s justifiable anger.

Brooklyn Park Police Chief Tim Gannon called the shooting “an accident.” The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would do the investigation, he said.

Regardless of who’s doing the investigating, Gannon needs to acknowledge this is more than an accident. The officer’s actions were, at a minimum, reckless and negligent.

Veteran Officer Kim Potter announced “Taser, Taser,” indicating her intent deploy the weapon against Wright, according to the police account. Given the circumstance (Wright’s expired license plate tab and an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor) using the Taser seems excessive. Worse, Potter apparently meant to draw her Taser but drew her service weapon instead, fatally shooting Wright, Gannon said.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot has called for Potter to be fired.

Elliot and Gannon took questions from the public and reporters. (Media conference transcript here.) Here are a couple of notable exchanges.

Speaker:

So there’s a perception, I think in the U.S. and around the world that had Daunte Wright been my color this wouldn’t have happened to him. Why is it the police officers in the United States keep killing young black men and young black women, far, far, far higher rate than they do white people?

Police Chief Gannon: “I don’t have an answer to that question.”

The initial reason for the traffic stop was that Wright’s car had expired tabs. One reporter asked:

Chief, are you aware that there’s a significant delay in getting tags … from the DMV? So even people who have purchased tags are unable to get them, because there’s a two to three month backlog. Are you aware of that? And is your staff also aware of that?

Gannon said he was aware of that and so are his officers.

Speaker:

Mr. Mayor you just said yourself, the whole world is watching the Twin Cities right now. … Why weren’t they[police officers] taking great precautions when they got involved [in] incidents like this, do you have any answer to that?

Mayor Elliott said he didn’t have an answer.


Mother Jones ran a piece today headlined: Police in Minnesota Suburb Where Daunte Wright Was Killed Rely on Policies Designed to Protect Cops. It says the Brooklyn Center’s police policy manual was written by Lexipol, a private firm that sells handbooks and training materials to police departments.

But some experts criticize the policies for being overly permissive or vague, giving officers as much latitude as legally possible. And that’s by design. “One of our secret sauces, so to speak, is rarely if ever will you see the use of the word ‘shall’ in our policies,” Bruce Praet, an ex-cop and one of Lexipol’s founders, said in a 2019 webinar. …

With Wright’s death currently under investigation, it’s still unclear what Lexipol policies adopted by Brooklyn Center police may be relevant to the shooting.

Mother Jones

Presiding Elder Stacey Smith (President), Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung (CEO), and Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Director of Racial Justice) of the Minnesota Council of Churches, issued a statement on Wright’s killing:

The prophet Jeremiah cried out:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more” (31:15). …

In moments like this our resolve is tested. In our neighborhoods and in our cities we have not yet processed our grief from last May when George Floyd was killed in the public square, and today the wound in our Black communities is made raw once again.

They are calling on faith communities to respond to Wright’s killing through prayer, presence, and prophecy.

By prophecy, they mean: “Refuse to be comforted. Refuse to rationalize this killing. Speak truth to power. Call for police accountability. Call for Minnesota legislators to take action on proposed police reform bills. Call for a system-wide transformation of policing in Minnesota,” they said.

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