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Justice

The Enraging Police Defense of Daunte Wright’s Killing

You can only be satisfied with this excuse if you take several awful things for granted.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon speaks about Daunte Wright killing
Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon
Bloomberg

On Monday, Tim Gannon, the police chief for Brooklyn Center, MN, spoke to reporters about the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, by one of his officers—and offered up an explanation that is symbolic of all of the many ways the police in America are granted an absurd, disturbing amount of impunity.

Here is what the police say initially happened, according to the Star Tribune (the normal caveat, that police lie all the time and cannot be trusted, applies):

The officer shot Wright about 2 p.m. Sunday, in the area of 63rd Avenue and Orchard Avenue N. Gannon said he was told in a briefing that “there was an expired tag on the vehicle.”

When an officer approached, Gannon said he saw something hanging in the rearview mirror. Gannon said the officer ran Wright’s name through their system and “found out he has a warrant.”

“I have very little information on the warrant, other than it was a gross misdemeanor warrant,” the chief said.

The chief said “there was no gun [in the car] that I am aware of.”

The thing hanging in the rearview mirror was apparently an air freshener.

After this, Wright wound up being shot and killed by an as-yet-unnamed officer. A straightforward case of police violence, you might think. But no, Gannon has an explanation.

Ah, we’ve all been there, when we reach for one horrible weapon and accidentally get hold of another one and then fatally shoot someone.

The body camera footage (which I will not post here) does show the unnamed officer repeatedly yelling “Taser!” before she shoots Wright. “Holy shit. I just shot him,” she says. Yeah.

Now, there is an obvious thing to think about here, which is that the cop knew what she was doing, even though she said otherwise on the video. Cops, I will repeat, lie all the time. It is eminently possible.

But let’s just take this situation at face value and say, OK, it’s the old “accidentally used a gun” thing that cops get into sometimes. And let’s even set aside the obvious question, “if you can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun, why in the world are you being entrusted with a Taser and a gun.”

This defense might make sense, but only if you take the following things for granted:

—that having the police involved in traffic stops is a good idea (it’s a terrible idea)

—that the police, upon randomly stopping you on whatever pretext, should be allowed to widen the scope of their investigation into you (they shouldn’t)

—that “I was just going to tase him!” is an acceptable defense (it’s not, and a Taser is also a lethal weapon that, you guessed it, is disproportionately used to kill Black people)

—that the police should be carrying weapons of any kind on them in the first place (they should be disarmed)

—that the state’s monopoly on violence is justifiable or used in an appropriate and understandable way (it isn’t)

—that the police should exist (you know the answer to this one)

If you don’t take these things for granted, the defense of the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright crumbles completely. If you don’t take these things for granted, then you start to wonder just what the hell is wrong with this country.

Gannon later went on to say that the officer is “afforded due process just like anybody else.” Except, apparently, Daunte Wright, who is dead.