Stun Gun Versus Guns

The Brooklyn Center police chief said the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop meant to use her stun gun, but instead grabbed her gun. How could an officer confuse a stun gun with a firearm, and are police trained to avoid the deadly confusion? KDKA's Paul Martino reports.

Video Transcript

- As we told you earlier, the police officer who shot and killed a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb allegedly intended to fire a stun gun instead of a handgun. So how could one be confused for the other, and are local police trained to avoid that issue? Paul Martino examines how one suburban police department handles that. Paul.

PAUL MARTINO: Kim, here at the Penn Hills Police Department, there is a mandatory training once a year on how to handle your stun gun and your gun. But the officers here are encouraged to practice the move every day.

- Taser, taser, taser.

PAUL MARTINO: Police often use stun guns to control a suspect who refuses to listen to commands. In her three years on the force, Penn Hills police officer Amanda Duncan has had to use hers.

AMANDA DUNCAN: When someone's not being-- they're not complying with commands-- for example, if they're not putting their hands behind their back, we can do the taser.

PAUL MARTINO: So far, Officer Duncan hasn't used her firearm while on duty. That's reserved for physical threats. She's confident she won't confuse her stun gun for her service firearm. She's right handed, so her gun is holstered on her right or dominant side. The stun gun is on the left. She says muscle memory guides her to the correct side. She practices constantly.

AMANDA DUNCAN: I do it every day before I get-- I get dressed, and I just take it in and out, in and out. Same with my firearm so I'm comfortable.

PAUL MARTINO: There's no question a stun gun feels different than a service firearm. It's lighter, made of a different material. While many are yellow, Penn Hills uses black so the yellow doesn't attract attention. Penn Hills police instructor Adam Quinn says even with training, in the heat of the moment, anything can happen. That's what makes training so essential.

ADAM QUINN: Under a stress-induced environment where a lot's going on and your attention is elsewhere, then mistakes can happen, and that's why we train our officers to go between the two tools.

PAUL MARTINO: Pittsburgh police tell me they have similar protocols, a mandatory annual training on how to use the stun gun and the service weapon. They go through this once a year, as I say, and fortunately, we have not had the terrible tragedy that occurred Sunday in Minneapolis. Reporting live from Penn Hills, Paul Martino, KDKA News.