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Opinion | A ‘Tragic Mistake’ by Officer Potter, but Not a Criminal One

To the Editor:

Re “Guilty Verdict for Ex-Officer Who Shot Man” (front page, Dec. 24):

After seeing the videos of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by Kimberly Potter, I don’t believe that Ms. Potter should have been convicted of any crime. Clearly she made a terrible mistake, and it may seem inexcusable for a 26-year police veteran to mistake her gun for a stun gun. However, the sudden, unexpected, aggressive action by Mr. Wright — at close quarters — can cause an officer, even a veteran, to get fearful.

A suspect in physical contact with an officer who was attempting to handcuff him suddenly breaking free and jumping behind the wheel of his car is not committing a passive and harmless action. Mr. Wright’s sudden action surprised Ms. Potter, who is responsible for her fellow officers’ safety as well as her own. She made a horrible mistake, one that may disqualify her to continue as a police officer, but not one that should make her a convicted criminal.

Michael J. Gorman
Whitestone, N.Y.
The writer, a retired New York Police Department lieutenant, is a lawyer.

To the Editor:

Kimberly Potter was convicted of manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright when she mistakenly used a handgun instead of a Taser. In contrast, Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by compressing his airway, allowing about nine minutes to pass during which he could have reconsidered and potentially saved Mr. Floyd’s life.

Once Ms. Potter fired her handgun, she had no time in which she could have changed course and saved the life of Mr. Wright. Her tragic mistake was irreversible the second that she fired.

In addition, consider the difference in how society reacts to physicians and nurses who make mistakes that result in the death of a patient. Rarely are they arrested and tried for manslaughter. If Ms. Potter is sent to prison, our justice system will have failed to extend the same empathy to police officers that we generally extend to physicians and nurses.

Dorothy Kim Waller
Houston

To the Editor:

Re “Joan Didion, Writer Who Explored the Nation’s Soul, Dies at 87” (obituary, front page, Dec. 24):

The news of Joan Didion’s death, six months after I lost my 87-year-old grandmother, reminds me of the ways in which Ms. Didion’s writing gave me a glimpse into the psyche of my grandma. Like Ms. Didion, my grandma lost her husband while her daughter was ill. Like Ms. Didion, my grandma also lost her daughter, my mom, tragically young, not long after becoming a widow.

I read Joan Didion to find words for feelings I felt indescribable. The way that she captured the essence of timelessness that accompanies grief and how callous it is that the world keeps bustling in the midst of loss was a lighthouse for me. Her words were a parallel narrative that I held close to my chest and that carried me outside of my own loss and across a bridge toward wider understanding.

Tiffany Graham Charkosky
Lakewood, Ohio

To the Editor:

“She left no immediate survivors.”

I understand that sentence in Joan Didion’s obituary. And I hate that sentence in Joan Didion’s obituary.

I want one of Ms. Didion’s own sentences to beat up that sentence: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” That gorgeous line, with its waltzing dactyls, pops into my head all the time. Like every night this week, while I’ve been in Covid isolation, reading bedtime stories over FaceTime to my son.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” she said. All storytellers leave immediate survivors, I’m saying.

Sarah M. Levy
Brooklyn
The writer is a former English teacher.

To the Editor:

Re “Desmond M. Tutu, 1931-2021: Archbishop Whose Voice Helped End Apartheid” (obituary, front page, Dec. 27):

Africa and the world at large have lost an exceptional moral and communal leader. The death of the courageous cleric leaves a huge ethical void in his South Africa homeland, where a dream of a better post-apartheid society has been shamefully deferred for the ordinary South African.

Tragically, black majority rule since 1994 has been plagued by corruption, cronyism and violent strife within the ruling African National Congress. That makes the passing of Desmond Tutu, whose moral prestige and conscience had been a constant check on the excesses of governing A.N.C. elites, an incalculable loss.

Kwabena S. Akosah
Brooklyn

To the Editor:

Re “The Only Mother on the Court,” by Melissa Murray (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 4):

Ms. Murray appears to confer legitimacy to overturning Roe v. Wade given that Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a woman and a mother, and therefore understands the situation. However, Justice Barrett is representative only of a person with substantial means who chose to adopt two children.

This may be admirable for Justice Barrett and her family, but for women in Mississippi who are not of substantial means, who could lose their job for missing any days of work and who lack adequate health care, their family choice would be taken from them.

As with the author’s example of Justice Clarence Thomas’s equating the murder of Emmett Till and the need for even more availability of firearms, these are examples of identity politics being used to harm those whom these individuals nominally represent.

Kurt Kirch
Glendale, Calif.

To the Editor:

Has anyone noticed the apparent irony in the G.O.P. making it nigh impossible to drop off mail-in ballots anywhere, while Justice Amy Coney Barrett suggests that women who wish not to be mothers simply leave their unwanted newborns at the local firehouse?

Robert Cronan
Baltimore

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