The police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun, as the man struggled with police, the city’s police chief said Monday.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as “an accidental discharge.” It happened as police were trying to arrest the man on an outstanding warrant.
“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” the officer is heard shouting on her body cam footage released at a news conference. She draws her weapon after the man breaks free from police outside his car and gets back behind the wheel.
After firing a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away, and the officer is heard saying, “Holy (expletive)! I shot him.”
Daunte Wright, 20, died Sunday in a metropolitan area that was already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death. Wright’s death sparked violent protests, with officers in riot gear clashing with demonstrators into Monday morning.
Gannon said at a news conference that the officer made a mistake, and he released the body camera footage less than 24 hours after the shooting.
The footage showed three officers around a stopped car, which authorities said was pulled over because it had expired registration tags. When another officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a second officer tells Wright he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when the struggle begins, followed by the shooting. Then the car travels several blocks before striking another vehicle.
“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s command, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Gannon said. “This appears to me from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating.
A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, authorities said. Katie Wright said that passenger was her son’s girlfriend.
Gannon would not name the officer but described her as “very senior.” He would not say whether she would be fired following the investigation.
“I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning,” the chief said.
Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June. In that case, a statement of probable cause said police got a call about a man waving a gun who was later identified as Wright.”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole,” he said.
Speaking before the unrest, Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, urged protesters to stay peaceful and focused on the loss of her son.
“All the violence, if it keeps going, it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason,” she said to a crowd near the shooting scene in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people on the northwest border of Minneapolis. “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back.”
Protesters who gathered near the scene waved flags and signs reading “Black Lives Matter.” Others walked peacefully with their hands held up. On one street, someone wrote in multi-colored chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”
Katie Wright said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.
“All he did was have air fresheners in the car, and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright said. During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.
Shortly after the shooting, demonstrators began to gather, with some jumping atop police cars. Marchers also descended on the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, authorities said.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and the White House has been in touch with the governor, mayor and local law enforcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We were incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of life at the hands of law enforcement in Minnesota yesterday,” she said.
National Guard troops and law enforcement officers continued to guard the front of the police department on Monday morning. Police were erecting a concrete barrier as Minnesota State Patrol officers joined the line in front of the precinct.
Several people and reporters watched from across the street as traffic returned to normal on the street where protesters were met with tear gas the night before. One man yelled at the officers using a megaphone as others flew Black Lives Matter flags.
About 20 businesses were broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference.
The National Guard was activated, and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew that expired shortly before daybreak.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in Floyd’s death, continued Monday. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. Prosecutors say Floyd was pinned for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. The judge in that case refused Monday to sequester the jury after a defense attorney argued that the panel could be influenced by the prospect of what might happen as a result of their verdict.
More National Guard members and state law enforcement personnel were to be deployed around the Twin Cities and in Brooklyn Center in addition to teams already in place for Chauvin’s trial at the Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis, Harrington said.
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, and Jonathan Lemire in Washington contributed to this report.