On the afternoon of April 11th, in Minneapolis, with the trial of officer Chauvin under way for the death of George Floyd, Daunte Wright is stopped by police while driving his car accompanied by his girlfriend.
He’s commanded to step out of the vehicle and does so. Three officers are present. Two African American males and a White woman.
Officers determined that there was an outstanding warrant for Mr Wright’s arrest.
Mr Wright exits his car as he’s asked to do and an officer begins to apply handcuffs but has difficulty.
Then Mr Wright, inexplicably, pulls away, gets back in his vehicle attempting to leave the scene.
In the tussle that follows a gun is pointed at him as the word Taser! Taser! is shouted. The video shows the gun held steady. Then a shot is fired. Mr Wright drives off anyway but is able to travel only a short distance before he dies from the gunshot.
The police department reviewed the video and concluded the shooting was a mistake. The lady officer had pulled out the wrong weapon when she had meant to use the Taser instead.
Anything is possible.
But I don’t get that a seasoned officer – the lady has been an officer for 26 years – would get confused which side she carried the Taser on and which side she carried the gun that kills people.
I don’t get that an officer would not have been responsible enough to double and triple check each time they came on duty, which side is the Taser on, which is the gun that kills people.
I don’t get that an officer would forget to do that, knowing that, in the heat of the moment, things happen very quickly and thus you will not have time to ask, ‘Now, where is it that I carry my Taser?’
I didn’t understand, either, why the cuffing of Mr Wright was so difficult and could not be completed. And why the Black officer wasn’t talking to Mr Wright as he did so. Simple talk. Like, ‘Hey man, don’t do anything crazy, we have to take you in, we have a warrant for your arrest, be cool, okay?’
Mr Wright could have been the officer’s younger brother.
Is this asking too much of the officer? Maybe. But not far away the trial of officer Chauvin was under way for the death of George Floyd. And during that horrific scene, there was at least one Black officer present, one Black officer who did not go right up to officer Chauvin and say, ‘there’s no need for the knee, let up. The man is down, he is handcuffed and no threat to anyone. Get your knee off.’
Back to Mr Wright. As he got back in the car and the gun is drawn, no one asked, ‘Is that the Taser or a gun?’
Too much to ask?
In the lockers of every officer back at the station, a sign should be posted so that every time they open it they read, ‘Do you know which side is your Taser, which side is your gun?’
Too late for Mr Wright but others will benefit.
Now, to the role Mr Wright played in his death.
Why did he pull away from the arresting officer?
Why would anyone want to do that when you have officers – with guns that kill – trying to handcuff and arrest you for an outstanding warrant?
Was Mr Wright trying to prove something?
He won’t be here to tell us but it is madness.
Why would anyone want to do something like that?
Is Mr Wright an isolated case of reckless defiance in dealing with the police, or is it part of a trend? A right of passage? ‘To assert myself I have to defy a gun pointed straight at me?’
Something is wrong here.
I have not heard African American leadership calling for all their brothers and sisters, children and parents, to be cautious in dealing with the police.
But maybe I missed it. If I did, the call wasn’t loud enough or persistent enough, so try again. Please.
Try again and remind all Blacks and all of us that, yes, there is much work to be done to achieve equality of opportunity in this land but there is now, as we speak, at the helm of this country, people who are working very hard to act responsibly.
Let us all join in the effort.