‘Mistakes happen’: Daunte Wright shooting appears to be accidental discharge, NYPD commissioner says

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NEW YORK — The fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb over the weekend appeared to be a terrible mistake, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Wednesday.

Shea joined the PIX11 Morning News to discuss the shooting as well as a controversial traffic stop in Queens and a spike in anti-Asian violence in New York City.

“I haven’t had conversations with anyone out there. I mean if it appears to be what it appears to be, and that’s an officer trying to deploy a Taser … and inadvertently uses a firearm, it’s terrible,” Shea said of the Wright shooting. “You never want to see something like that happen.”

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop on Sunday. 

The shooting was described by authorities as “an accidental discharge.” Kim Potter, the officer with 26 years of experience who has since resigned, fired her gun instead of her Taser.

Shea said the NYPD specifically trains to avoid a situation like what happened in Minnesota, but added that “mistakes happen.”

“When you have surgery, 10 different nurses come up to you and say ‘What leg is being operated on?’ And there’s a reason for that, because mistakes happen. Doctors have operated on the wrong knee,” Shea said. “Mistakes happen in law enforcement. That’s what this appears to be, but you have to do training and you have to have policies to minimize those risks.”

The commissioner said with the NYPD, they train officers not to “cross draw,” meaning they have to draw with their non-dominant hand and keep the holster on their non-dominant side. It’s unclear if a “cross draw” led to Potter grabbing her gun instead of a Taser.

“We’re talking about a loss of life, and that’s what’s just terrible in this situation,” he added.

Back in New York City, the decision by Queens district attorney not to prosecute an NYPD officer who was seen on video purportedly placing a knee on a man’s neck during a January arrest — drawing comparisons to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — was the appropriate call, according to Shea.

“We thought that was going to be the outcome from the start,” he said. “If you look closely at that video … you see somebody almost like you would categorize it as a catcher’s position … there’s a knee in close proximity. He’s not kneeling on the person’s neck.”

Shea said the department will not pursue internal disciplinary actions either.

As for the recent spike in violence against the Asian community in New York City, the commissioner said some of the incidents are “flat out racism,” but others involve a more complex mental health aspect.

So far in New York City, there have been at least 39 anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police, compared to 28 through the same time in 2020.

“There’s more work to do, there’s no doubt,” Shea said, adding that, “There’s a significant mental illness piece to this.”

The NYPD recently stepped up patrols in Chinatown and other neighborhoods to combat the spike in violence.

The department also deployed undercover Asian police officers and added two more detectives to its Asian Hate Crimes Task Force.

If you or someone you know are experiencing anti-Asian hate, click here for resources.

Anyone who witnesses an incident can also find out more information on bystander intervention by clicking here.

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