Former Arizona DPS boss surprised by Minnesota officer’s weapon mistake

Apr 13, 2021, 1:15 PM
frank milstead...
(KTAR News File Photo/Matt Bertram)
(KTAR News File Photo/Matt Bertram)

PHOENIX – The retired head of two law enforcement agencies in Arizona said Tuesday training should have taken over when a veteran Minnesota police officer who thought she was using a Taser instead fatally shot a suspect.

“I was surprised,” Frank Milstead, former director of the Department of Public Safety and onetime Mesa Police chief, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

“They don’t feel the same and they don’t look the same. The tasers are bright yellow with black handles, they have a different type of trigger. There are a whole bunch of tactile differences.”

Suburban Minneapolis police Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran, shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop Sunday night.

Wright was pulled over because of expired registration tags. When an officer tried to handcuff him, a struggle ensued.

Wright made it back inside his car before Potter fired once.

The city’s police chief has said he believes Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun when she was going for her Taser. She can be heard on her body camera video shouting “Taser! Taser!” before firing live rounds.

Potter, who is white, resigned Tuesday.

“The training, your instincts, go into effect [during confrontations]. You know the handgun is where your strong hand is and on the other side of your body is where the taser is,” Milstead said.

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the police union, issued a statement Tuesday saying “no conclusions should be made until the investigation is complete.”

“Officer Potter, you could see in her body camera that she’s got her hand on her Glock handgun,” Milstead said. But, he added, when the suspect broke free, “and she says ‘I shot him’ she seemed surprised.”

In Arizona, officers, deputies and state troopers follow guidelines set by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, he said.

“We put them in stress environments and we do it routinely. We do it yearly. We get them to work their hands across their body to grab the gun, to grab the Taser,” Milstead said.

Training includes “shoot, don’t shoot” electronic scenarios.

“They’re graded by an instructor and if you fail those, you have to go back to remedial training.”

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Former Arizona DPS boss surprised by Minnesota officer’s weapon mistake