Police Use Gun Instead of Taser? Long Before Daunte Wright, It Happened in Madera.
Everardo Torres existed in California’s Central Valley two decades before Daunte Wright.
Torres, a 24-year-old professional boxer who lived in Madera, was killed by a police offer who believed she was going to fire a stun gun in 2002.
Since Torres’ death, changes have been made to practices and equipment across the county to prevent police from firing the wrong weapon.
But that’s how Wright, a 20-year-old black man, died on Sunday in the suburbs of Minneapolis, according to Tim Gannon, police chief of the Brooklyn Center.
The chief said he believed the officer “intended to use her taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet”.
It happens about once a year
According to law enforcement experts, an officer mistakenly shoots a suspect with a gun when attempting to use a stun gun about once a year across the country.
When Torres was killed, Madera police officer Marcy Noriega put her Glock weapon and taser on the same side of her body – the dominant side.
To reduce the potential for confusion, officers today typically wear stun guns on their weak sides – or on the non-dominant hand. Small arms are carried on the strong side. In addition, stun guns are often brightly colored to distinguish them from firearms.
The weapons of the veteran officer who killed Wright were holstered on opposite sides and required very different finger pressures to fire.
While shooting, Officer Kim Potter immediately noticed her fatal mistake. Potter’s video with the body camera showed her pointing a gun at Wright and shouting “Taser” during a traffic obstruction. Then she shouts a curse word and “I just shot him” to other officers.
Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday.
Torres killed while handcuffed in cruiser
Torres died while handcuffed to the back of a police cruiser. Officers had left to end a noisy party and Torres was arrested after allegedly wrestling with police. When Torres kicked the cruiser’s doors and windows, Noriega’s goal of using a stun gun to calm Torres’ unruly behavior culminated in a fatal bullet instead.
Noriega was never charged with a crime but was on administrative leave for several years before returning to the department.
After Torres’ murder, his family led an 11-year legal battle against the city of Madera. In 2013 the lawsuit was settled and the family was awarded $ 775,000.
Officers sometimes convicted of manslaughter
But officials who said they mistakenly killed citizens thinking they were using stun guns faced serious legal ramifications.
For example, a transit officer in Oakland killed Oscar Grant in 2009. Police officer Johannes Mehserle testified in court that he had reached for his stun gun out of fear that Grant had a gun, but falsely fired his 40-caliber pistol. A jury convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced him to two years in prison. His department paid $ 2.8 million to Grant’s family.
In 2015, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Robert Bates, the assistant sheriff’s assistant, killed an unarmed Eric Harris who was being held by other officers. Bates was convicted of second degree manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison. Tulsa County agreed to pay $ 6 million to Harris’ estate.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)