Minnesota police said Daunte Wright's death was the result of an 'accidental discharge.' This happens far more often than you might think.

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Yelena Dzhanova
·4 min read
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Police officers on October 27, 2020, in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
  • Brooklyn Center police said the officer who shot Daunte Wright meant to pull her Taser, not her gun.

  • Wright, therefore, was shot and killed as a result of an "accidental discharge."

  • Hundreds of accidental discharges have happened since 2012; at least 21 resulted in death.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Daunte Wright's death was more or less an accident, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon suggested on Monday.

Police shot the 20-year-old Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. A day later, Gannon in a press conference said Wright had been driving and officers pulled him over for a traffic violation. He also said the shooting was the result of an "accidental discharge."

The officer, who has not yet been identified, meant to grab her Taser but grabbed her gun instead and fatally shot Wright, the police chief said.

Wright's death is not the first time an officer accidentally deployed and discharged a weapon. In fact, it's far more common than most people may think.

According to an analysis done by the Associated Press in 2019, there have been at least 1,422 unintentional weapons discharges across 258 law-enforcement agencies since 2012.

Those numbers, likely higher than some might expect, are not comprehensive and do not represent every single case of accidentally discharged weapons by the police in the United States.

But the figures shine a light on how common it is for police to accidentally discharge weaponry while questioning and arresting a person suspected of a crime, responding to a scene, or handling weaponry.

One of the most prominent cases of accidental weapon deployment resulted in a death of a Black man.

In 2015, Robert Bates, an Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy, accidentally shot Eric Harris with a gun. Bates had yelled out "Taser," seemingly intending to use that instead, but ended up shooting Harris.

"Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry," Bates said, video of the incident shows.

"Oh god, he shot me," Harris can be heard saying in the video. "I didn't do shit."

The AP analysis cites at least 21 deaths since 2012 that have resulted from accidental weapon discharge by the police.

It's possible the number has gone up since the time the AP reported its findings in December 2019. These stats are difficult to track because agencies across the US have different reporting requirements.

Wright's death represents just one of those cases.

In the case of Black people shot and killed by police because of accidental weapon deployment and discharge, individualized racism can be part of it, according to Dr. Robert Sanders, associate professor and chair of national security at the University of New Haven. It can also be attributed to institutionalized racism, Sanders said.

"It happens because African American males are not policed in the same way other people in America are policed," Sanders told Insider in an interview. "All police aren't bad, but police make mistakes and some of these mistakes are costing Black people their lives."

Sanders said the human value officers place on Black people is less than what they typically place on white people.

"If it was a Black cop and a white man or just a cop and a dog, the outrage would be different," he said. "A police officer's first recognition of an African American male in particular is not as another citizen who they are there to support and serve. Their first recognition of that person is as a threat."

"You don't respond to a threat in the same manner that you respond to someone you're there to support and serve," he added.

Accidental weapon discharge can also be a result of poor training.

"If this is a result of the trainings, the trainings are deficient," Sanders told Insider.

When asked how often officers go through formal training, Gannon, the Brooklyn Center police chief, told reporters there are "numerous trainings throughout the year." These trainings focus in part on firearms and Taser deployment, Gannon said.

There are "pretty thorough Taser requalifications on a yearly basis but we also do a number of scenario roleplaying as well," he added.

Wright's family will be represented by the civil-rights attorney Ben Crump. An investigation of the incident is ongoing, and the involved officer is on administrative leave.

Read the original article on Insider