Police in Brooklyn Center, Minn., say the female officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop Sunday accidentally drew a handgun instead of a Taser when she killed him.
“There is nothing I can say to lessen the pain of Daunte Wright’s family,” Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
At the briefing, Gannon played bodycam footage of the incident, which shows an officer attempting to handcuff Wright outside his vehicle when Wright suddenly jumps back inside. A female officer can be heard yelling, “Taser! Taser! Taser!,” before discharging her weapon as Wright drives away.
The officer can then be heard saying, “Oh, shit, I just shot him,” in apparent disbelief.
“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,” Gannon said Monday.
Gannon added that the officer, who has not been publicly identified, has been placed on administrative leave.
Wright’s mother told reporters at the scene that she received a call from her son telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota.
“I heard police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run,’” she said through tears. The call ended abruptly, and when she dialed his number again, his girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.
In a statement, police said they pulled over a man for a traffic violation just before 2 p.m. and found he had an outstanding arrest warrant. As police tried to arrest him, he got back in the car. One officer shot the man, who drove several blocks before striking another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Protests erupted in Minnesota Sunday over Wright’s death, which occurred just miles from where George Floyd was killed by police last May. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the demonstrations.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz mobilized the National Guard, and a curfew was ordered.
“Our hearts are aching right now,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said. “We are in pain.”
The shooting comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with Floyd’s murder, continues in Minneapolis. The prosecution is expected to rest its case this week.
“We recognize that this couldn’t happen at a worse time,” Elliott said. “All of the world is watching our community.”
Elliott called Wright’s death, like Floyd’s, “heartbreaking and unfathomable.”
“The events, like yesterday … they take a part of us,” he said.
Shortly after the press conference concluded, attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, announced that he had been retained by Wright’s family.
“Daunte Wright is yet another young Black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us — not just the whitest among us,” Crump said in a statement. “As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father. This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane.”
The Minnesota Twins postponed Monday afternoon’s game against the Boston Red Sox “out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Brooklyn Center.”
At the White House, President Biden urged for calm in the wake of Wright’s death.
“Question is: Was it an accident or intentional? That remains to be determined,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “In the meantime, I want to make it clear again: There is absolutely no justification — none — for looting. No justification for violence. Peaceful protest? Understandable.”
At at separate press briefing Monday afternoon, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency and announced that a curfew would begin at 7 p.m. Monday.
Walz said that the community needs space to both grieve and exercise First Amendment rights to protest, but that violence will not be tolerated.
“This state, this community and this nation needs a space to grieve,” he said.
The governor also called for an end to police brutality.
“It doesn’t need to be this way,” Walz said. “We don’t need to keep having these press conferences and have a routine traffic stop end in a 20-year-old dead, a family devastated and a community on edge.”
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