Mistaking a handgun for a Taser? It happened before in Minnesota

Eric Rasmussen
Updated: April 12, 2021 10:35 PM
Created: April 12, 2021 06:56 PM

On Monday, Brooklyn Center Police released body camera video of an officer shouting 'Taser' before apparently shooting and killing Daunte Wright, 20. Based on that video, police Chief Tim Gannon called the incident an 'accidental discharge' of the officer's handgun.

A law enforcement expert who reviewed the video says it also reveals the officer who fired the gun invoked the words that police are trained to use before using a Taser.

"She kept yelling, 'Taser, Taser, Taser, going to deploy a Taser,'" said Rich Stanek, a former Hennepin County Sheriff who now works as a law enforcement consultant. "You are giving due notice to the individual that, number one, you're going to be Tased. Two, you're telling the other officers, 'hands-off,' because the Taser is indiscriminate."

Stanek, whose clients now include Axon Taser, says officers are also trained to carry their Taser on the opposite side of their belt, away from their non-dominant hand.

"With your handgun, you want an immediate draw, almost like a quick draw, just like you would think. With a Taser, you want a little more forethought because it is so easy to make this mistake. That's the reason why the Taser is usually bright yellow in color. It's clearly marked, clearly identified," Stanek said.

But Stanek acknowledged mistakes can happen. Court records show Rochester Police paid $900,000 to settle a case brought by Christofar Atak after Officer Gregory Siem shot him in the back at close range in September 2002.

In its response to a motion for summary judgment in the case, the court wrote, "Siem alleges that he mistook his Glock for his Taser." 

Now, nearly 20 years later, Brooklyn Center police say the mistake was fatal.

"I felt the community needed to know what happened. They needed to see it. We needed to be transparent," Gannon said.


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