Police chief says Daunte Wright fired ‘accidental volley’

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – The police officer who killed a man in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday did so accidentally, authorities said Monday, posting a graphic body camera video that appeared to depict the officer yelling, “Taser!” before firing his gun.

“I think the officer intended to deploy his Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Brooklyn Center Police Department Chief Tim Gannon said of the Sunday shooting of Daunte Wright, 20. years, during a traffic stop. “This seems to me, from what I saw, and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately afterwards, that it was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

The officer, who was not publicly identified, was placed on administrative leave, authorities said. Chief Gannon said that Mr. Wright had been initially detained due to an expired search on the vehicle he was driving. The video showed a brief fight between Mr. Wright and the police officers before one of the officers fired his gun.

After the officer fired, she is heard on video saying, “Shit. I just shot him. “

In the hours after the Sunday afternoon shooting, protests, violence and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of 30,000 people north of Minneapolis. The shooting comes amid a nationwide settling of accounts over police misconduct and police killings of black people; Mr. Wright was black. City officials did not identify the police officer’s race.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” said Mike Elliott, mayor of Brooklyn Center, at a news conference Monday. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that justice is served for Daunte Wright.”

Mr. Elliott requested that the officer who shot Mr. Wright be fired. “My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of the lives of other people in our profession,” he said. “That is why I fully support the release of his 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 Wright was shot.

A curfew was imposed until early Monday morning, and the school district in Brooklyn Center announced that it would hold classes virtually Monday.

Elliott said President Biden offered his administration’s support in a phone call Monday; Biden is “saddened to hear about the loss of life at the hands of law enforcement in Minnesota,” said Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, and is expected to address the shooting publicly Monday afternoon.

Chief Gannon said an officer shot Wright Sunday afternoon after stopping his car for a traffic violation and discovering he had a warrant for his arrest. When police tried to stop Mr. Wright, he returned to his car, at which point an officer shot him, Chief Gannon said.

Then Mr. Wright’s car traveled several blocks and collided with another vehicle, after which he was pronounced dead by police and medical workers. Chief Gannon did not give any information on the severity of the accident, although the passengers in the other car were not injured.

Katie Wright, who identified herself as Mr. Wright’s mother, told reporters that her son was driving a car that his family had just given him two weeks ago and that he had called her when he was arrested.

“He said they detained him because he had air fresheners hanging from his rear view mirror,” he said. Ms. Wright added that her son was driving with his girlfriend when he was shot. Police said a woman in the car was injured in the accident, but her injuries were not life-threatening.

John Harrington, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said the riots that followed Wright’s death had spread to a shopping mall in Brooklyn Center and that people had entered about 20 businesses there. By approximately midnight, most of the protesters had fled from the vicinity of the police department, once National Guard troops and Minnesota State Patrol officers arrived to back up the police officers who were around the building with riot gear and batons.

Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, wrote On twitter that he was praying for Mr. Wright’s family “while our state mourns another life of a black man taken by the police.”

The Bureau of Criminal Detention, a state agency that investigates police killings in Minnesota, is conducting an investigation.

Police officers at Brooklyn Center said they had been working for years to diversify the force and improve relations with the community.

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 highest position in 2015.

“I really want the city to understand and get to know its police department,” Chief Gannon told a community television station at the time.

Among his goals, in addition to reducing the crime rate, he said, was equipping officers with body cameras and making the force more representative of the diversification of the suburban 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 makeup Racial and ethnic changes dramatically in the last generation, and the community has had a majority-minority population since 2010, of which only about 44.5 percent are 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 expected the police force to be a reflection of the community.

“If they have these positive interactions,” he said, “then they contact the officers, not always at the end of a 911 call.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reported from Brooklyn Center and Julie Bosman from Chicago. The reports were contributed by Azi Paybarah from New York, Shawn Hubler from Sacramento, California, Matt Furber from the Brooklyn Center, and Neil Vigdor from Greenwich, Connecticut. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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