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Minnesota officer shouted ‘Taser!’ but fired a gun instead, fatally shooting a man at a traffic stop, police say

A suburban Minneapolis police officer grabbed her gun instead of her Taser during an arrest and fired a shot that killed a 20-year-old unarmed Black man in what authorities said was an “accidental” shooting.

The details and body-worn camera footage were released Monday by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, providing an account of what happened as officers tried to detain Daunte Wright on Sunday following a traffic stop but ended up shooting him.

The officer who shot and killed Wright was identified Monday night as Officer Kim Potter, according to a news release from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

Potter has been with Brooklyn Center police department for 26 years, according to the BCA.

The mayor of Brooklyn Center, the suburb where Wright was killed, called the shooting “unfathomable” and “heartbreaking” as a jury in nearby Minneapolis considers the fate of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with killing George Floyd, whose death sparked a summer of unrest last year.

“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now, we are in pain right now, and we recognize that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Mayor Mike Elliot said. “We recognize that this is happening at a time when our community, when all of America, indeed, all of the world watching our community.”

President Joe Biden called for “peace and calm” as authorities in Minneapolis and St. Paul declared emergencies and curfews ahead of expected unrest for a second straight night Monday. The counties of Hennepin — which includes Brooklyn Center — Anoka, Ramsey and Dakota were under curfew.

For a second consecutive night, a crowd gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and people were “launching bottles, fireworks, bricks and other projectiles at public safety officials,” according to a tweet from Operation Safety Net (OSN), a joint effort of local entities to ensure the safety of the public during the trial of Derek Chauvin.

“They are also trying to shine lasers into officers’ and troopers’ eyes,” the tweet says.

The town’s police chief, Tim Gannon, said his release of the video was for the sake of transparency and that the BCA doesn’t condone release of video in ongoing investigations.

Gannon said the portion of body-worn camera footage released Monday led him to believe the shooting was accidental and that the officer’s actions before the shooting were consistent with the department’s training on Tasers.

“As I watched the video and listened 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 the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

The video shows three officers on a traffic stop, but the only video released was a minute-long clip from the officer who fired her weapon.

Gannon said she has been placed on administrative leave.

“I felt the community needed to know what happened. They needed to see it. I needed to be transparent. And I want to be forthright,” Gannon said.

It’s common, though not always required, for police agencies to turn over shooting investigations to outside agencies to avoid appearance of conflict of interest.

Gannon said he asked BCA to investigate and present its findings, “independent of me,” to authorities and attorneys to review the case.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice said the shooting was a local matter and that the department is not involved in the investigation. The district attorney for Hennepin County said they’ve sent the case to a different county to avoid an “appearance of a conflict of interest.”

An attorney for Wright’s family, Ben Crump, called the shooting “entirely preventable” and “inhumane.”

“As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father,” he said.

Details of the encounter

Wright was with his girlfriend Sunday afternoon, driving to his older brother’s house, when police pulled him over in the Minneapolis suburb for an expired tag, police said. Officers learned he had an outstanding warrant and attempted to handcuff him while he was standing outside his car.

Wright’s older brother, Damik Bryant, told CNN he texted Wright moments before the shooting, asking what was taking him so long. Wright sent another text saying he was pulled over and asked for insurance information, Bryant said. Bryant told him to call their mother.

Wright gave officers his name before calling his mother, Bryant said.

“They asked him to step out the car, and you know his first instinct was, ‘What did I do, what’s wrong?’ And they were like, ‘Well, put the phone down, get out the car now, we’ll talk to you about it when you get out,'” Bryant said.

“He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror,” Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told CNN affiliate WCCO. “I heard the police officer come to the window and say, ‘Put the phone down and get out of the car,’ and Daunte said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car,'” Katie Wright told CNN affiliate KARE.

“So, I heard the phone get either put on the dashboard or dropped, and I heard scuffling, and I heard the police officers say, ‘Daunte don’t run.’ And then the other officer said, ‘Put the phone down'” before it sounded like the phone was hung up, she said.

In the body-worn camera footage released Monday, an officer tells Wright “don’t” as Wright twisted away from an officer to get back into the car. Gannon said it appeared from the video that Wright was trying to leave.

The officer whose camera footage was released is heard warning the man she’s going to use her Taser on him, before repeatedly shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Then, the officer is heard screaming, “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”

The video stopped moments later. Gannon said the shooting appeared to be “an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.” He said the conduct of the officer who shot Wright — shouting “Taser” three times to alert officers nearby she was about to fire her Taser — was consistent with their training.

The shooting happened in Brooklyn Park, about 10 miles from where Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer is on trial for the killing of another Black man, George Floyd.

Hundreds protested after Wright’s death

As news of Wright’s death spread Sunday night, hundreds of people protested. Gannon told reporters that an officer was hit in the head with an item thrown by protesters, who used frozen cans of pop and pieces of broken stone.

The Minnesota National Guard had originally been planning to increase the number of members as closing arguments approach in the Chauvin trial. More than 500 members of the Guard have been activated, and the Guard said it plans to increase the number of members on duty “in response to the events overnight in Brooklyn Center.”

As anger over Wright’s death grew Sunday night, before it was known that the shooting appeared accidental, aerial footage from KARE showed several police cars around the Brooklyn Center crash site swarmed by crowds. The video showed people trying to damage police cars.

About 100 to 200 people marched toward the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner John Harrington said.

After nightfall, a crowd gathered around the police department, CNN crews on scene reported. Officers held a line outside of the department, with some officers positioned on top of the building.

Harrington said there were reports of people throwing rocks and other objects at the police building. There were also reports of shots fired in the area, he said.

While one group stayed at the police department, a second group was seen at the Shingle Creek Mall, where around 20 businesses were broken into, Harrington said. A majority of the crowd at the police department was later dispersed, Harrington said. Two people were arrested, Gannon said.

Harrington said authorities will keep a strong presence in the area in the coming days. The curfews set for Monday run from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a planned vigil at the site of Wright’s death was moved to comply with the curfew.

“You will see a robust assortment of National Guard, state and local police departments working together over the next two or three days,” Harrington said.

CNN Newsource

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