BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (NewsNation Now) — The police chief in a Minneapolis suburb where a Black man was fatally shot during a traffic stop says he believes the officer who fired apparently intended to use a Taser, not a handgun, as the man struggled with police.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as “an accidental discharge” during press conference Monday as he released bodycam footage from the officer who fired during the April 11 incident.
The footage shows three officers approaching a car before one of them eventually asks Daunte Wright, 20, to step out of the car. Police say they were going to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.
When the officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a struggle ensues, during which Wright reenters the vehicle and sits behind the wheel. Officer Kim Potter, who is wearing the bodycam, can be heard shouting “Taser!” several times while pointing her gun at Wright.
After firing a shot from her handgun, the car speeds away and Potter is heard saying: “Holy (expletive)! I shot him.”
Wright died Sunday due to a single gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. The ME ruled his death a homicide, meaning it was caused by another person.
Gannon said the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now investigating.
Potter was identified by the Brooklyn Center police department as the shooter Monday night. She is on standard administrative leave according to the department.
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.”
Officer Kim Potter has been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. Gannon 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,” he said.
A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, authorities said. Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said that passenger was her son’s girlfriend.
“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now,” Brooklyn Park Mayor Mike Elliott told the briefing. “We are in pain right now. And we recognize that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
The metropolitan area was already on edge because of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd.
President Joe Biden urged calm on Monday, following a night where officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators. The president said he watched the body camera footage.
“Today I’m thinking about Daunte Wright and his family — and the pain, anger, and trauma that Black America experiences every day,” Biden said on Twitter. “While we await a full investigation, we know what we need to do to move forward: rebuild trust and ensure accountability so no one is above the law.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz instituted another dusk-to-dawn curfew, and law enforcement agencies stepped up their presence across the Minneapolis area. The number of Minnesota National Guard troops was expected to more than double to over 1,000 by Monday night.
Crowds of protesters are gathering outside barricades which have been put up around the city’s police station Monday night.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told reporters Sunday at the scene that she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out the vehicle, she said.
“I heard scuffling, and I heard police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run,'” she said through tears. The call ended. When she dialed his number again, his girlfriend answered and said he was dead in the driver’s seat.
Minneapolis declared a state of emergency and a 7 a.m. CT to 6 a.m. CT curfew. A curfew was imposed in Brooklyn Center until 6 a.m. CT Monday morning.
Late Sunday, a group of about 100 to 200 protesters gathered around the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and threw projectiles, including rocks, at the police department, Commissioner John Harrington of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a live-streamed news briefing overnight.
A police officer was also transported to the hospital after sustaining injuries, according to EMS audio, the Star-Tribune reported.
Harrington said about 20 businesses had also been broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center. He said law enforcement agencies were coordinating to tame the unrest, and the National Guard was activated.
Speaking before the unrest, Wright’s mother 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.”
Biden referred to her comments on Monday, saying “we should listen to Daunte’s mom calling for peace and calm.” The president said he had not yet called the family but that his prayers were with them.
The White House is backing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the administration says would increase accountability for law enforcement by rolling back qualified immunity and eliminating practices considered discriminatory.
Public mourners included Wright’s family and friends who gathered, wept and consoled each other alongside protesters who jumped atop police cars, confronted officers, carried “Black Lives Matter” flags, and walked peacefully in columns with their hands held up. On one street, written in multi-colored chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”
By late Sunday, Brooklyn Center police had fired gas into the crowd of protesters who had gathered outside the police station. Flashbangs were also used to disperse protesters overnight.
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.
There was no visible increase in the already high security presence on Monday morning outside the courthouse, which was fortified ahead of Chauvin’s trial with tall fencing topped with barbed wire and coils of razor wire between the fences and concrete barriers. National Guard troops with military vehicles, sheriff’s deputies and county security guards continued to stand watch.
Meanwhile, all Brooklyn Center students were to attend online classes Monday because school buildings were closed, Superintendent Carly Baker said.
Wright’s family hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented the Floyd family in its $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis.
“This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane,” Crump said in a statement. “What will it take for law enforcement to stop killing people of color?”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.