One cop convicted of accidentally shooting criminal, other never charged for intentionally killing Ashli Babbitt

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The following editorial is written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today. 

This is a tale of two police officers.

The first officer is a married mother of two adult sons ages 19 and 22. Age 48, she served her police department for 26 years, joining the department in 1995.

She is a former president of the police union, worked on the department’s hostage negotiation team, and worked as field training officer.

All indications are she was an exceptional officer who had a clean record. She is a white female.

The second officer, a black male, is also married, the father of two children. Age 53, he joined his agency in 1993 and holds the rank of lieutenant.

Not much has been officially released about this officer except for the fact that in February 2019, he left his department-issued, loaded Glock 22 firearm unattended in a restroom.

Fortunately, the weapon was found during a routine security sweep by another officer. This officer bragged at the time that because he was a lieutenant, he would face no discipline. That appears to be exactly what happened.

On April 11, 2021, the first officer was backing up a second officer at a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The vehicle in question was pulled over due to an expired registration, however during the course of the stop, it was discovered that the operator had an outstanding warrant.

The officer who initiated the stop attempted to place the operator under arrest, at which point the operator began to struggle with the officers.

During the struggle, the first officer, believing she had drawn her Taser to the point where she said, “Taser, Taser, Taser!” to warn the other officer she was going to use her less than lethal option, had instead drawn her firearm, firing a single shot that struck the suspect, killing him.

The first officer is heard to say, “Holy shit! I shot him!” realizing her fatal mistake.

The “victim” in this case, a man named Daunte Wright, was only 20-years-old, but had already amassed himself an “impressive” criminal record.

Despite some media portrayals of him as a young father with a learning disability, Wright had previously been charged with first-degree aggravated robbery, fleeing from police, and possession of a handgun without a permit.

The warrant held for Wright was related to the fleeing and weapons charges. In other words, he wasn’t a boy scout.

Meanwhile the second officer was working at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

During what some have described as an “insurrection” which was more along the lines of a civil disturbance, an unarmed, 14-year veteran of the United States Air Force, who served deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar, was shot and killed by the second officer as she was allegedly trying to climb through a broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby at the Capitol.

Unlike the incident in Minnesota, the second officer issued no warning of any kind before firing the fatal shot.

Photos later released showed the second officer waving his firearm around indiscriminately inside the Capitol building, including having it pointed at other officers with his finger inside the trigger well, which violates all police training.

The first officer submitted her resignation after the incident and a mere three days after the incident was arrested and initially charged with second-degree manslaughter. Three whole days.

The second officer was placed on paid administrative leave for three months. In April 2021, ironically at around the same time the first officer was indicted, the second officer was cleared of any wrongdoing by the U.S. Department of Justice, despite the fact he violated a number of standard police procedures, not the least of which was a warning that he was about to use deadly force.

His victim, Ashli Babbitt was unarmed and posed no immediate threat to anyone. In addition, there was a police emergency response team inside the stairwell where Babbitt was shot who would have been immediately able to deal with her trying to enter the Speaker’s Lobby should they decide to do so.

The first officer expressed remorse for what she had done and clearly had committed what amounted to a grave accidental shooting.

The second officer did an interview on NBC News where he expressed no remorse for shooting an unarmed woman and instead portrayed himself as a victim.

We are of course talking about the first officer, Kim Potter of the Brooklyn Center, MN. Police Department, and the second officer, Lt. Michael Byrd of the U.S. Capitol Police.

This week, Potter was convicted of first and second degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, a convicted criminal.

Two men arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a Chicago cop after shooting him during a traffic stop

One need only read the Minnesota statute on first degree manslaughter (609.20) and it is clear it didn’t apply in the Potter case. The only element of the statute that even comes close is the following:

Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree…

[…]

(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;

What of manslaughter in the second degree (609.205)?

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree…

  • by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; or… [emphasis added]

By our interpretation of the statutes, it doesn’t appear that Potter violated either first or second degree manslaughter. Even the underlying 609.224 addressed in the manslaughter second statute doesn’t seem to fit unless you do some significant stretching, which was apparently what the jury in the Potter case did.

In the case of Byrd, Department of Justice guidelines on the use of force specifically address steps law enforcement officers are to use in applying it. Taken directly from an article from the National Institute of Justice, a publication of the Department of Justice:

Law enforcement officers should use only the amount of force necessary to mitigate an incident, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm. The levels, or continuum, of force police use include basic verbal and physical restraint, less-lethal force and lethal force.

[…]

Use of force is an officer’s last option—a necessary course of action to restore safety in a community when other practices are ineffective.

According to WJLA, the US Capitol Police use of force policy states, in part that “an officer may use deadly physical force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury.” [emphasis added]

Based on DOJ guidelines and the US Capitol Police’s own policy on deadly force, it is clear that Byrd violated both. A statement provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in announcing the decision to clear Byrd is an insult:

“Based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution. Officials from IAD informed a representative of Ms. Babbitt’s family today of this determination.” [emphasis added]

Insufficient evidence? Byrd was shown on camera pointing his weapon at Babbitt, who was clearly unarmed and certainly posed no immediate threat to anyone. Byrd never verbally warned her to stop or otherwise notify her of his intent to use deadly physical force.

Despite the narrative from Democrats and their media cheerleaders, this wasn’t a “deadly” insurrection, other than the fact the only one who was killed on January 6 was unarmed Ashli Babbitt.

The guilty verdict for Potter and the disinterest in even taking disciplinary action  against Byrd shows we are currently in the midst of a disparate criminal justice system.

If ever there was a reason for a police officer to at least go to trial over a shooting, it is Byrd’s shooting of Ashli Babbitt.

Potter’s guilty verdict should send a clear warning signal to police officers that even if you make a mistake in a split second, you will face punishment, including loss of liberty.

But if you’re on the politically correct side of a shooting, as in the January 6 killing of Ashli Babbitt, you don’t get so much as a day off without pay.

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