The suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot a 20-year-old unarmed Black man during a traffic stop Sunday apparently meant to fire a Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun, the police chief said Monday.
Less than 24 hours after a female officer in the Brooklyn Center Police Department shot and killed Daunte Wright, Police Chief Tim Gannon played an unedited clip of police body camera video showing the fatal incident for the media.
The video, which was played at a news conference, shows two officers approach the vehicle — one on each side. The third officer approaches later as the two attempt to handcuff Wright and he struggles. The third officer threatens Wright that she will taze him before firing.
Immediately thereafter she is seen saying, “Holy s---, I shot him,” apparently realizing that she had fired her service weapon instead of her Taser.
Gannon described it as an “accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
The suburban Minneapolis community was quiet but on edge Monday following grief-filled protests over the shooting gave way to clashes with heavily-armed law enforcement, break-ins at several local businesses and a 6 a.m. curfew.
News of Wright’s death, who is Black, prompted fresh outcry over police use of force in the Minneapolis area where residents are already weary from a string of incidents where Black people have been killed during interactions with police; just 10 miles away, the highly-scrutinized trial is underway of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who faces murder charges for the 2020 killing of George Floyd.
“Nothing has fundamentally changed since the killing of George Floyd. Nothing,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told The Washington Post Monday. “Police officers can still do whatever they’ve been doing without any measure of accountability.”
Hussein is part of a coalition of community advocates in the metro area who offer legal support and perform community outreach. Hussein had been in touch with both Wright’s parents and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who on Sunday called the shooting “tragic” and urged both protesters and police to remain peaceful.
The shooting happened just before 2 p.m. Sunday in a largely residential part of Brooklyn Center when an officer stopped a car, later identified by Wright’s family as his, on a traffic violation. The officer found the driver had an outstanding warrant and as they tried to arrest him, he got back into the car and an officer fired at him, Gannon said in a news release.
Wright drove for several blocks before striking another vehicle, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A female passenger suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening and was transported to a hospital, police said.
Wright’s family quickly identified him as the victim at the scene. Police have not released the identity of the officer who fired. The shooting is under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation.
Aubrey Wright, 42, said his son had recently asked his mother for $50 for a carwash, and was headed there when he was shot. They had recently bought him the car, his father told The Post. Wright’s family said he told them while on the phone before the shooting he had been pulled over for having an air freshener dangling from his mirror allegedly blocking his view.
Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told the Star-Tribune that her son had called her after being pulled over and that she heard a commotion and then someone yelling “Daunte, don’t run” before the line disconnected. Moments later, she said, her son’s girlfriend, who was in the car, called back and said he’d been shot.
Aubrey Wright, who was at a grocery store, said his wife called him around 2 p.m. with the news. “She was screaming over the phone. She was saying, ‘Daunte was shot!’” he said.
When Aubrey Wright arrived at the scene less than 10 minutes later, he said, he saw his son’s 2011 Buick LaCrosse partially destroyed and his son’s body covered with a white sheet on the sidewalk.
After news of the shooting circulated through the community, several young residents went to the Brooklyn Center Police Department to gather in protest said Hussein of CAIR-MN.
“We tried to keep folks safe. It was peaceful, they were standing in the street and kinda protesting and all of a sudden we saw about eight vans come in with what looked like riot gear police,” Hussein said.
As protesters lingered at the scene, police gave orders to disperse and fired flash bangs and tear gas. The Minnesota National Guard, which is deployed to the Twin Cities for the Chauvin trial, later arrived to assist police as numerous businesses in the area were broken into.
The situation drew such significant attention that by Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden had reached out to Mayor Elliot to support.
Aubrey Wright questioned whether police had to use lethal force.
“I know my son. He was scared. He still [had] the mind of a 17-year-old because we babied him,” Wright said. “If he was resisting an arrest, you could Tase him. I don’t understand it.”
Daunte Wright, who had a two-year-old son, dropped out of high school about two years ago because of a learning disability, his father said. Since then, he worked in retail and fast-food restaurants to support his son. He planned to go back to school to get his GED.
“He was a great kid,” Aubrey Wright said. “He was a normal kid. He was never in serious trouble. He enjoyed spending time with his two-year-old son. He loved his son.”