Daunte Wright Shooting an ‘Accidental Discharge,’ Brooklyn Center Police Chief Says
Officials from Brooklyn Center said that the fatal shooting was an “accidental discharge,” and released body-camera video of the encounter.,
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The police officer who killed a man in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday did so accidentally, officials said Monday, releasing a graphic body-camera video that appeared to depict the officer shouting, “Taser!” before firing her gun.
“It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said of the shooting on Sunday of Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop. “This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
The officer, who was not publicly identified, has been placed on administrative leave, officials said. Chief Gannon said that Mr. Wright had been initially pulled over because of an expired registration on the vehicle he was driving. The video showed a brief struggle between Mr. Wright and police officers before one of the officers fired her gun.
After the officer fired, she is heard on the video saying, “Holy shit. I just shot him.”
In the hours after the shooting on Sunday afternoon, protests, violence and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of 30,000 people north of Minneapolis. The shooting comes amid a national reckoning over police misconduct and the killings of Black people by the police; Mr. Wright was Black. City officials did not identify the race of the police officer.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” Mike Elliott, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, said at a news conference on Monday. “We will do all that is within our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”
Mr. Elliott called for the officer who shot Mr. Wright to 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,” he said. “And so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”
The Twin Cities region has been on edge for weeks, as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with murdering George Floyd, is underway in a Minneapolis courtroom less than 10 miles from where Mr. Wright was shot.
The school district in Brooklyn Center announced that it would conduct classes virtually on Monday, and Minnesota officials announced a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for much of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
President Biden said he had watched the body-camera footage, which he described as “fairly graphic.”
“The question is: Was it an accident? Was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.
“In the meantime,” he added, “I want to make it clear again: There is absolutely no justification — none — for looting, no justification for violence.”
Chief Gannon said an officer had shot Mr. Wright on Sunday afternoon after pulling his car over for a traffic violation and discovering that he had a warrant out for his arrest. As the police tried to detain Mr. Wright, he stepped back into his car, at which point an officer shot him, Chief Gannon said.
Mr. Wright’s car then traveled for several blocks and struck another vehicle, after which the police and medical workers pronounced him dead. Chief Gannon did not give any information on how severe the crash had been, though the passengers in the other car were not injured.
Katie Wright, who identified herself as Mr. Wright’s mother, told reporters that her son had been driving a car that his family had just given him two weeks ago and that he had called her as he was being pulled over.
“He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror,” she said. Ms. Wright added that her son had been driving with his girlfriend when he was shot. The police said a woman in the car had been hurt in the crash but that her injuries were not life-threatening.
John Harrington, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said the unrest that followed Mr. Wright’s death had spread to a mall in Brooklyn Center and that people had broken into about 20 businesses there. By about midnight, most of the protesters had fled from around the police department, once National Guard troops and Minnesota State Patrol officers arrived to back up the police officers who stood around the building with riot gear and batons.
Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter that he was praying for Mr. Wright’s family “as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a state agency that investigates police killings in Minnesota, is conducting an investigation.
Police officials in Brooklyn Center said they had been working for years to diversify the force and improve community relations.
Chief Gannon, a white veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, had been with the department for 21 years when he was elevated to the top post in 2015.
“I really want the city to understand and know their police department,” Chief Gannon told a community television station at the time.
Among his goals, beside lowering the crime rate, he said, was to outfit officers with body cameras and make the force more representative of the suburb’s diversifying population.
Brooklyn Center — the site of the Minneapolis field office for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the birthplace of Hennepin County’s first sheriff — was more than 70 percent white as recently as the 2000 census. But its racial and ethnic makeup changed dramatically in the last generation, and the community has since 2010 had a majority-minority population, only about 44.5 percent of which is now white, according to federal statistics. Twenty-nine percent of the population is Black, 16 percent is Asian-American and 13.5 percent is Latino.
In 2015, Chief Gannon said, he hoped to make the police force a reflection of the community.
“If they have these positive interactions,” he said, “then they make contact with officers not always on the tail end of a 911 call.”
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reported from Brooklyn Center, and Julie Bosman from Chicago. Reporting was contributed by Azi Paybarah from New York, Shawn Hubler from Sacramento, Calif., Matt Furber from Brooklyn Center, and Neil Vigdor from Greenwich, Conn. Kitty Bennett contributed research.