Only a handful of deaths in the US have resulted from a police officer mistakenly drawing a Taser instead of a pistol, as the Minnesota cop who shot Daunte Wright did — and most of the cases did not result in criminal charges against the officers.
Kimberly Potter, 48, a 26-year veteran, fatally shot Wright during a Sunday traffic stop when she made the tragic error, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday.
“Holy s–t,” she is heard saying on chilling body cam video. “I just shot him!”
The senior officer accidentally drew her firearm despite being trained to place her Glock semiautomatic gun and pistol-gripped Taser on opposite sides of her duty belt, the chief said.
Similar shootings have happened at least 11 times across the US since 1999 — the year when Taser introduced the Advanced Taser M-26, according to report in the Star Tribune.
Older Tasers were shaped more like a TV remote control, the newspaper noted.
In 2001, Sacramento, California, Police Officer Thomas Schrum shot Steven Yount in the buttock as he resisted arrest, according to the report.
Schrum later said he thought he had drawn his Taser on the suspect, who survived the gunshot.
At the time, Taser had only recently introduced its handgun-shaped M26, a model the company said was manufactured by customer preference. It was later replaced by other models that are also pistol-shaped.
Most cases where officers have mistaken a service pistol for a Taser have not been fatal.
In 2002, Rochester, Minnesota, Police Officer Gregory Siem told investigators he mistakenly drew his Glock instead of his Taser and shot Christopher Atak in the back while trying to subdue him.
Siem was not criminally charged, and Atak won a $900,000 settlement in a civil suit, the paper reported.
But two cases in California and one in Oklahoma did prove fatal.
The officers involved in the deaths of Everardo Torres in Madera, Calif., in 2002, Oscar Grant III in Oakland, Calif., in 2009, and Eric Courtney Harris in Tulsa, Okla., in 2015 said they, too, had intended draw their Tasers.
The Star Tribune said Brooklyn Center police did not respond to its question about what model Taser Potter used.
The Taser, which fires two barbed darts connected to thin wires, delivers an electric current that incapacitates muscles.
The weapon can be easily distinguished from handguns, its maker Axon Enterprise told the outlet in a statement.
Tasers, which are available in yellow and black, have different grips and are lighter than pistols — and have an LED screen that lights up when the safety is turned off.
“Axon also specifically warns of the possibility of weapon confusion and provides training recommendations to mitigate against it,” the company’s statement said.
“Based on recommendations by use of force experts, Axon recommends that a Taser energy weapon be placed on an officer’s non-dominant side, and firearm on the dominant side,” it added.
According to the Brooklyn Center police manual, all Tasers must be clearly and distinctly marked to differentiate them from the officer’s firearm, according to the Star Tribune.
Cops also are required to undergo annual training in the use of the weapon.
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