A Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis police officer shot a Black motorist Saturday after repeatedly shouting “Taser,” the town’s police chief said at a press conference Monday.
The chief described the shooting as an accidental discharge after showing body camera footage of the encounter.
Daunte Wright’s car traveled for several blocks after the officer shot him, before it collided with another vehicle, according to police. Wright died at the scene.
The shooting led to protests in Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis overnight, including some property damage and a police response that included flash-bang grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon released body camera footage of Wright’s death Monday, a decision he said he made in the interest of transparency.
In the footage, police can be seen asking Wright to step out of his car, then attempting to handcuff him while informing him they had a warrant against him. Wright appeared to move back toward the driver’s seat, at which point police struggled to put handcuffs on him. The body camera footage showed an officer drawing her gun on Wright but shouting “I”ll tase you!” and “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
“Shit!” the officer could be heard saying moments later on the footage. “I just shot him!”
Gannon said Brooklyn Center officers train with their hand guns on their dominant side and Tasers on their weak side. So, he said, the shooting appeared to have been an accident.
“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,” Gannon said. “This appears, to me, from what I’ve 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.”
Gannon declined to answer multiple specific questions about an ongoing state-run investigation into the shooting, and about the officer who fired the shot, except to say that she was a “very senior officer” and that she was on administrative leave.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said he supported relieving the officer of her duties, but city manager Curt Boganey said the officer would be afforded “due process.”
“For all intents and purposes, I think we can look at the video and ascertain whether or not she will be returning,” Gannon said separately.
The initial grounds for the traffic stop were expired tags, Gannon said. Upon approaching the car, an officer noticed “a hanging item from the rearview mirror,” Gannon said. Then, they ran Wright’s name and found a warrant for a gross misdemeanor, leading police to attempt the arrest.
Wright’s mother Katie Wright told reporters that she had recently given the son the car, and that he called her as the traffic stop began to ask for insurance information. Dante Wright told his mother that he’d been pulled over for air fresheners hanging on his rearview mirror, Katie Wright recalled.
Outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department Monday, activists protested both the shooting and the police response to protesters afterward.
When police left the scene of the shooting overnight, “the scene there instantly became calm” said Angela Myers, president of the Minneapolis NAACP.
“When we make these kinds of decisions, and we’re allowing folks to make those type of brutal, fatal mistakes, that’s sending a message to everybody across the state,” said Chauntyll Allen, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities. She called for the officer who shot Wright to be fired, as well as the town’s police chief and city manager.
“What’s frustrating to me is we have to go city, to city, to city, to make this point,” Allen said.
The high-profile murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd last summer, also continued on Monday, and state and local law enforcement and the National Guard were deployed throughout the area in response to both the trial and the police shooting.
A Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter, Andy Mannix, said that the Star-Tribune had not been allowed into the Brooklyn Center press conference, but that national and international media had been granted access.
As the press conference got underway, Mannix posted footage from outside the Brooklyn Center police station, showing a “Thin Blue Line” flag flying below the U.S. flag.
Brooklyn center police are flying a blue line flag outside the station right now pic.twitter.com/07i9IezVNP
— Andy Mannix (@AndrewMannix) April 12, 2021