Grief, Outrage In Minneapolis Suburb After Police Shoot Black Motorist During Traffic Stop

MINNESOTA, USA - APRIL 11: Family of Daunte Wright, who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center near where Derek Chauvin is on trial in the death of George Floyd, react in Brooklyn Center, Min... MINNESOTA, USA - APRIL 11: Family of Daunte Wright, who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center near where Derek Chauvin is on trial in the death of George Floyd, react in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, United States on April 11, 2021. Duante was shot and killed by the Brooklyn Park police hours earlier. (Photo by Christopher Mark Juhn/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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April 12, 2021 11:35 a.m.

The police shooting of a Black motorist Sunday brought more grief and turmoil to the Minneapolis area, in the midst of the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd last year.

Here’s what we know so far:

A Black man is dead after police shot him during a traffic stop

Daunte Wright, 20, died after being shot by police Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. It was not immediately clear whether he was killed by police gunfire, or by an ensuing collision — Wright’s vehicle struck another several blocks away moments after police shot him — but Wright died at the scene, police said. 

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told KARE that he called her during the traffic stop, saying that police had pulled him over for hanging air fresheners on his mirror. She said he asked her for car insurance information, as she’d given him the car two weeks prior. Then, she said she heard police tell Wright to get out of the car. 

Wright’s mother said she then heard someone say “Daunte, don’t run.”

“A minute later, I called and his girlfriend answered, which was the passenger in the car, and said that he’d been shot and she put it on the driver’s side, and he was laying there lifeless,” Katie Wright told the local station

Wright said separately that she’d been pleading for her son’s body to be moved from the street, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him,” Wright said. “He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47. … Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us. … I said please take my son off the ground.”

Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that they pulled Wright over for a “traffic violation” and then determined that Wright had an outstanding warrant.

“At one point as officers were attempting to take the driver into custody, the driver re-entered the vehicle,” police said in the statement. “One officer discharged their firearm, striking the driver. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.” 

A passenger in the vehicle, identified by Wright’s mother as his girlfriend, sustained non-life threatening injuries during the crash, police said. 

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting an investigation of the incident. In a press conference in the early morning hours Monday, John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said he couldn’t comment on the status of that probe beyond what few details had already been released publicly. He noted that Brooklyn Center police use body cameras, and “we expect that we will use the body cams.” 

“It’s an open investigation, and it’s too early for us to make any real comment on it,” he said. 

Local, State PD and Nat’l Guard responded to protesters in the area

What was clear by Sunday night was that law enforcement was responding in force to unrest in the area. 

Local and state police responded to the scene of the shooting, as well as to the Brooklyn Center Police Department and a local business center. Harrington described a “highly-agitated” crowd at the scene and noted reports of people breaking into businesses. 

Both Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis saw incidents of looting late Sunday and early Monday, the Star-Tribune reported.

The National Guard, already deployed in the Minneapolis area for the ongoing Chauvin trial, was dispatched as well. The mayor of Brooklyn Center issued a curfew through Monday morning. 

Among other things, Harrington said, rocks and other objects were thrown at the suburb’s police department, and there were reports of shots fired in the area. Law enforcement used tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets, multiple outlets reported

“Nearly all of our staff have been mobilized across the state, and have responded into the metro area to deal not only with Operation Safety Net and the concussion of the Chauvin trial in the near future, but also today’s incident in Brooklyn center and the ensuing challengers that we’ve seen last night into this morning,” said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol.

The trial of Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd is ongoing

The Minneapolis area has for weeks seen a heavy law enforcement and National Guard presence as part of Operation Safety Net, the law enforcement label for the large state and local presence during the Chauvin trial.

As of Monday morning, there were 500 Minnesota National Guard troops activated across the Twin Cities as part of the operation, according to a statement on the Facebook page for the operation, and law enforcement planned to increase the number of activated personnel following the Brooklyn Center shooting. 

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said in a statement around 2 a.m. local time that “Our entire community is filled with grief following today’s officer-involved shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year old young man. Our hearts are with his family, and with all those in our community impacted by this tragedy.” 

“My heart goes out to Dante’s family,” the mayor added in a video statement. “I recognize the pain you’re going through. And we all here in Brooklyn Center recognize the pain that you’re going through. And we are going to make sure that everything is done in our power to ensure that justice is done.” 

Wright’s death came during the ongoing Chauvin trial, in which the former Minneapolis Police Officer is accused of killing George Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. The trial, set to resume Monday, is the first of two scheduled for four officers facing charges for Floyd’s death. The other three officers facing charges will be tried together in August. 

The ACLU of Minnesota called for an “immediate, transparent and independent” investigation into Daunte Wright’s death from an outside agency other than the BCA or Brooklyn Center police, for the quick release of body camera footage, and for the naming of all officers and agencies involved. 

“The ACLU-MN has deep concerns that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people,” the organization said in a statement.

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