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Daunte Wright
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Daunte Wright shooting trial may revolve around proving officer’s recklessness

A candlelight vigil for Daunte Wright outside Seattle's West Precinct. (Jason Rantz/KTTH)

The officer who shot Daunte Wright in Minnesota claims she thought she was drawing her Taser, but instead drew her gun. She’s already resigned, but is being charged. Will the argument that it was a mistake fly in court?

“Maybe,” former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna told Seattle’s Morning News. “The prosecutors decided to bring charges of second degree manslaughter against the officer under Minnesota law. Secondary manslaughter can be charged if the perpetrator ‘creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death or bodily harm.'”

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“A classic example of second degree manslaughter would be driving under the influence — although some states have separate statutes for vehicular manslaughter — but driving under the influence, or you’re out hunting and you recklessly shoot your rifle thinking you’re aiming at a deer, or maybe you’re not sure what you’re aiming at, and you end up killing another hunter.”

In this case, the key point will relate to the officer’s potential recklessness in shooting Daunte Wright.

“The point of involuntary manslaughter, second degree manslaughter, is not only ‘is there no malice aforethought,’ which is why it’s not murder, but it really arises from recklessness or negligence. So was she negligent in drawing her gun thinking it was her Taser and firing it before confirming she had the right weapon in her hand? That will be the key point,” McKenna said.

The prosecution may additionally bring up the notion of why a Taser was even used for a traffic stop.

“This is where the facts of stop and detain, attempted arrest really become important. So there’s been a lot of criticism of this officer’s decision to pull Mr. Wright over to begin with, that the reason was expired tabs and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, which apparently is illegal in Minnesota,” McKenna said.

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He believes the defense will argue the issue of the outstanding warrant and resisting arrest, among other related issues, but that firing the wrong weapon may override that.

“What got the police officers’ attention — this training officer and her trainees — was that there’s an outstanding warrant for Mr. Wright because he missed a hearing on a misdemeanor gun charge. So it’s possible the defense will say, ‘misdemeanor gun charge, didn’t know if he had a gun or not, we’re treating this guy with great care, they were trying to handcuff him and he decided didn’t want to be handcuffed. He got back in his car, so he was resisting arrest.’ All of that’s going to play into the officer’s defense,” McKenna said.

“But you can’t get around the central fact that she grabbed the wrong weapon and fired it before confirming that she actually held the Taser in her hand and not her gun,” he added.

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