Gun, Taser Mix-Ups Were Blamed in These 13 U.S. Police Shootings Since 2001

Duante Wright became at least the fourth person in the U.S. to be killed by a police officer who mistakenly fired a gun instead of their Taser.

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Brooklyn Center Police Department officer Kimberly Potter, 48, after he was stopped for a traffic violation on Sunday.

He reportedly tried to get back inside his vehicle, but was shot by Potter and was later pronounced dead at the scene.

At a press conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said he believed that Potter had meant to use a Taser on Wright.

He said: "It is my belief that the officer intended to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.

"This appears to me, from what I've viewed and the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge."

Gannon also said officers had been trained to carry their handguns on their dominant side, and Tasers on their weaker half, in order to help prevent weapon confusion.

But, there have been other cases since 2001 where officers across the U.S. have mistakenly shot someone with a gun when they said they meant to fire their Tasers.

In March 2001, Steven Yount, was shot in the buttocks by a Sacramento, California officer Thomas Schrum while handcuffed during a scuffle outside a 7-Eleven.

Schrum said he intended to fire his Taser in order to subdue Yount, but mistakenly pulled out his gun and discharged it, according to Yount v. City of Sacramento which led to a decision by the California Supreme Court that greatly expanded the rights of convicted arrestees who were subjected to excessive force.

Christofar Atak, a Sudanese refugee, was shot in Rochester, Minnesota, in September 2002.

According to the Post Bulletin, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension concluded officer Greg Siem "was trying to subdue an intoxicated Atak when he accidentally used his handgun instead of his Taser." Siem then called for medical assistance once he realized his mistake.

Everardo Torres, 24, from California, was shot dead by Madera Police Officer Marcie Noriega who, according to the Madera Tribune, intended to grab her Taser to subdue Torres and instead grabbed her 40-caliber Glock and fired one shot into his chest.

During an October 2003 incident, Maryland police officer and Somerset County Deputy Sheriff Robert Purnell pursued an unarmed Frederick Henry and shot him in the elbow after he pulled out his Glock instead of his Taser, according to The Daily Record.

Court documents seen by Newsweek said Mesa Police Office Martin Wolfe shot Theodore Wright in the back in May 2004. The document said the Arizona officer "meant to shoot Wright with his Taser, but fired a single shot from his Glock pistol instead."

Washington state outlet, the Kitsap Sun, said then 32-year-old William Jones was shot in the leg by Kitsap County sheriff's deputy Tiffany Dobbins as she and other officers tried to get him out of a tree that he had been in for several hours.

The Attorney General's Office said Dobbins was asked to fire her Taser in the June 2006 incident, but instead wounded Jones with a bullet. Jones, who did not suffer life-threatening injuries, was treated and released from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Newsweek saw court documents where Michael McCarty was shot during a fight outside a police department in Nicholasville, Texas, in April 2008. Lt. Bill Jones said he intended to use his Taser to stop the fight, but "mistakenly" drew his firearm.

Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Black man from California, was killed on the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in the early hours of New Year's Day in 2009. Grant had been arrested for a misdemeanor and was lying facedown on the platform when BART police officer Johannes Mehserle said he meant to pull his Taser to shock Grant.

In the document The People v Mehserle, it was claimed the officer "accidentally drew his handgun by mistake and fired the fatal shot." Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter finding the shooting was not accidental but was instead criminally negligent.

Eric Harris, 44, was shot and killed by then 73-year-old reserve sheriff's deputy during a botched sting operation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, back in April 2015.

In a video released by the Tulsa County sheriff's office following the shooting, Bates yells "Taser" before shooting Harris. He then says: "I shot him, I'm sorry."

Bates was found guilty of manslaughter in April 2016 and was sentenced to four years imprisonment. He was released in October the following year.

Akira Shaunell Lewis then was shot in May 2017 with a gun after Lawrence police officer Brindley Blood thought she had her Taser in her hand as she watched an unarmed man beating a fellow officer following a traffic stop in the Kansas city.

Jamel Jackson, 18, was mistakenly shot in the arm when a Baldwin County sheriff deputy fired one shot, believing he had drawn his Taser during an October 2017 incident in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Brian Riling was shot in the stomach by former New Hope, Pennsylvania police officer Matthew Zimmerman who believed he had drawn his Taser rather than his gun in the March 2019 incident.

Police are trained to use tasers
Police across the U.S. carry both Tasers and guns while they are on duty. Stock image. Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock