The police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb appeared to be an “accidental discharge” by an officer who drew her gun rather than a Taser during a struggle, the city’s police chief said on Monday.
The shooting on Sunday that led to the death of Wright, who was Black, took place after traffic police pulled over a car in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, not far from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is underway.
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Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon unveiled video footage from a body-worn camera at a news briefing on Monday. It showed a struggle between Wright and the officer. Wright then got back into the car and an officer could be heard yelling “Taser, Taser.”
Then, the car speeds off and a female officer can be heard saying: “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”
Gannon commented: “This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officers’ reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr Wright.”
Wright’s death has prompted widespread demonstrations in Brooklyn Center, which have turned violent.
The mayor of neighbouring Minneapolis has declared a state of emergency and the governor of Minnesota announced a curfew will be in effect from 7pm on Monday (00:00 GMT) until 6am (11:00 GMT) on Tuesday in the counties that include Minneapolis and St Paul. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd, which sparked protests across the United States and in other parts of the world last summer.
‘No one above the law’
President Joe Biden, who described the video of Wright’s killing as “fairly graphic”, said an investigation would be needed to establish what happened.
He told reporters he had not spoken to Wright’s family but extended his prayers to them and said he understood the anger, pain and trauma in the Black community over repeated incidents of police killings.
Later, the president said he was thinking about Wright and his family – “and the pain, anger, and trauma that Black America experiences every day.”
“While we await a full investigation, we know what we need to do to move forward: rebuild trust and ensure accountability so no one is above the law,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
The Minnesota National Guard is guarding the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and law enforcement officers were erecting a concrete barrier as Minnesota State Patrol officers joined the line in front of the precinct.
“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott told the briefing. “We are in pain right now. And we recognise that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” Elliott said. “We will do all that is in our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, had told reporters on Sunday she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out of the vehicle, she said.
In a statement, Brooklyn Center police said officers had pulled over a man for a traffic violation just before 2pm (19:00 GMT) and found he had an outstanding arrest warrant. As police tried to arrest him, they say the man got back into the car.
Minnesota police fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop. Family say police stopped him for having an air freshener in his rearview mirror.#DaunteWright was 20.
Police shot him as he reentered his car, claiming he had an outstanding warrant, and he crashed blocks away. pic.twitter.com/53N3t9SkU3
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 12, 2021
One officer shot the man, who was not identified in the statement. The man drove several blocks before striking another vehicle and dying at the scene.
When asked if there would be charges in the case, Gannon said it was “far too early”.