Daunte Wright was stopped by police, but it was not a traffic stop (at least not just a traffic stop), it was a felony stop. Daunte Wright had an outstanding warrant on gun charges. This is the sort of stop in which cops must take every precaution to protect themselves. They are stopping someone who has a history of violence. They will normally issue one or more commands to the person who has been stopped. Depending on whether the suspect obeys or refuses to obey those commands will dictate how the cops proceed.
In this case, cops ordered Daunte Wright out of his car. He refused. That changed everything. Put yourself in the cop’s place. How will you approach this guy? He has a warrant for firearms crimes. He is probably armed. If that’s what they thought, they were right. He did have a gun, illegally because he already had a warrant based on gun crimes.
At that point the cops had every reason to be extra cautious. Remember, the thing every cop wants most is to go home to his or her family when their shift is over. When dealing with a perp who will not even obey a command to exit his vehicle, the escalation of force is automatically heightened and justified.
The cops in this case did manage to get Wright out of his car without harm to Wright or themselves. Then they were trying to handcuff him, a standard procedure when arresting someone. They almost hand him in cuffs, but then he jerked away and got back into his car. That’s when we learn that Wright did indeed have a gun in his car.
At that moment, another escalation of force was authorized. At that point those cops knew they might not be going home that night. They did what anyone would do in that situation. The fought for their lives. They did what they did because Daunte Wright, by fighting them and trying to get to his gun, essentially forced on them the need to defend themselves if they were ever to see their families again.
In the melee a 26-year veteran cop grabbed for her taser but her hand fell to her Glock instead of to her taser gun. Without intending to do so, she shot Wright. She was trying to tase Wright, but shot him unintentionally. She was trying to protect her partner from Wright if he managed to get to his gun. It was therefore a dire emergency situation. A cop’s life was at stake.
You can say that a 26-year veteran should know the difference in the feel of a Glock or a taser gun. But, remember, this had turned into a deadly struggle. Only split seconds were going to decide who came out alive and who did not.
So what did the cops do wrong? What could they have done differently to resolve the situation without anyone getting hurt? Well, they could have just let Wright go on his way, I suppose. That would have likely got them fired.
There was little the cops could have done other than what they did. Daunte Wright is the one who had the power of avoidance here. If he had simply cooperated with the police, no violence would have ensued. Wright would be alive today if he had just not fought with the police. It’s one him, pure and simple.