A ‘very senior’ female police officer who shot dead a 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop in Minneapolis accidentally fired her gun instead of her taser during a struggle, the police chief says.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon on Monday described the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright as ‘an accidental discharge’ after his death sparked violent protests less than 10 miles from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is taking place.
Wright was shot dead on Sunday afternoon after he and his girlfriend were pulled over during a traffic stop for what police say was an expired car registration. The officers then learned Wright had an outstanding warrant against him.
During a tense press conference, Gannon released police body cam footage of the incident that showed three officers approaching Wright’s car after he had been pulled over for the traffic stop.
The footage showed one officer trying to handcuff Wright as a second officer told him he was being arrested on a warrant. Wright immediately jumped back into his car in an apparent attempt to flee.
A struggle then broke out between the officers and Wright, who was still sitting inside his car.
The female officer could be heard shouting ‘Taser!’ several times in the moments before she fired her gun. Immediately after, the female officer can be heard saying: ‘I shot him’. It appears she dropped her gun in the aftermath.
Gannon said he did not believe a gun was retrieved from Wright’s car in the aftermath.
Wright managed to drive several blocks before coming to a stop when he hit another car. He was pronounced dead at the scene and his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the car, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Police body cam footage of the fatal incident showed three officers approaching Daunte Wright’s car in Brooklyn Center on Sunday after he had been pulled over for the traffic stop
The female officer could be heard shouting ‘Taser!’ several times in the moments before she fired her gun. Immediately after, the female officer can be heard saying: ‘I shot him’. It appears she dropped her gun in the aftermath
‘This was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr Wright,’ Gannon said.
‘As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their taser, but instead shot Mr Wright with a single bullet.
‘For informational purposes we train with our handguns on our dominant side, and our taser on our weak side. If you’re right-handed you carry your firearm on your right side and your carry your taser on the left. This is done purposefully, and it’s trained.’
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is the agency investigating Wright’s death.
The name of the officer who fired the fatal shot has not been released but Gannon described her as ‘a very senior officer’.
She has been placed on administrative duty.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Mike Elliott said during the press conference that the officer should be fired.
‘My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,’ Elliott said, adding he fully supported relieving the officer of her duties.
Elliot noted that the incident coincided with the Chauvin trial, which had forced a reckoning over the death of Floyd.
‘I want to say that our hearts are aching right now,’ Elliott said. ‘We are in pain right now. And we recognize that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.’
It is not yet clear if the officer will face charges.
Daunte Wright, 20, was shot dead on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center after he was pulled over during a traffic stop for what his mother said was air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon on Monday described the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright as ‘an accidental discharge’ after his death sparked violent protests less than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed last year
Police had revealed officers tried to arrest Wright after pulling him and his girlfriend over for a traffic violation at about 2pm on Sunday before realizing he had an outstanding warrant.
Authorities said the car was pulled over for having expired registration and they tried to arrest him after determining he had an outstanding warrant.
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.
Wright’s mother Katie Wright said her son called her in the moments before he was shot to say police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror. It is illegal in Minnesota to have anything hanging from a rear-view mirror.
She said he called her to get insurance information for the vehicle because she recently gave the car to him.
Describing the call, Wright’s mother said: ‘I said when the police officer comes back to the window, put him on the phone and I will give him the insurance information.
‘Then I heard the police officer come to the window and say, ‘Put the phone down and get out of the car.’ And Wright said ‘why’. He said, ‘We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.”
‘A minute later, I called and his girlfriend answered, who was the passenger in the car, and said that he’d been shot and she put it on the driver’s side, and he was laying there lifeless,’ Katie told gathered media on Sunday afternoon.
‘I heard scuffling, and I heard police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run,” she said through tears. The call ended, and she dialed his number again. His girlfriend answered and said he was dead in the driver’s seat.
Protestors and City of Brooklyn Center Police Officers clash outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Sunday night
The National Guard was called in to calm the chaos and a curfew was imposed to quell angry demonstrations over the shooting death of Daunte Wright on Sunday in the Brooklyn Center neighborhood
Speaking before the unrest broke out, Wright’s mother had urged protesters to stay peaceful and remain 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.
‘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.’
As news of Wright’s death traveled, about 100 people, some visibly upset and one carrying a sign demanding ‘Justice for George Floyd,’ confronted police in riot gear.
Some started jumping atop police cars.
Marchers also descended on the Brooklyn Center Police Department where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, according to authorities.
Violent protests eventually broke out with officers in riot gear clashing with demonstrators into the early hours.
National Guard troops were brought in just before midnight as looters broke into some 20 businesses.
A citywide curfew was introduced until 6.30am local time.
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 on Monday.
“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.
More National Guard members and state law enforcement personnel are 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.