Daunte Wright's death sparks new protests in Minneapolis

A young Black man was shot by police and died in a Minneapolis suburb, heightening tensions midway through the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Protests across the city lasted late into the night on Sunday.

Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune/AP
A crowd forms a circle around a memorial for Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, April 11, 2021. Mr. Wright's family told a crowd that he was shot by police Sunday before getting back into his car. They later announced his death.

A Black man died after being shot by police in a Minneapolis suburb during a traffic stop and crashing his car several blocks away, sparking violent protests that lasted into the early hours Monday as officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators and the man’s mother called for calm.

The man was identified by family as 20-year-old Daunte Wright, and he died Sunday in a metropolitan area already on edge and midway through the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted he was praying for Mr. Wright’s family “as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

Speaking before the confrontation in Brooklyn Center between protesters and law enforcement, Mr. Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, attempted to curb any unrest.

“All the violence, if it keeps going it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason,” she said to a crowd near the shooting scene. “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back.”

Police didn’t immediately identify Mr. Wright, but protesters who gathered near the scene waved flags and signs reading “Black Lives Matter.” Others walked peacefully with their hands held up. On one street, written in multi-colored chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”

Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that officers had stopped a motorist shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. After determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police tried to arrest the driver. The driver reentered the vehicle and an officer fired at the vehicle, striking the driver, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.

The police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun, as the man struggled with police, the city’s police chief said Monday.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as “an accidental discharge.” It happened as police were trying to arrest the man on an outstanding warrant.

“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” the officer is heard shouting on her body cam footage released at a news conference. She draws her weapon after the man breaks free from police outside his car and gets back behind the wheel.

After firing a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away, and the officer is heard saying, “Holy [expletive]! I shot him.”

Police Chief Gannon said at a news conference that the officer made a mistake, and he released the body camera footage less than 24 hours after the shooting.

The footage showed three officers around a stopped car, which authorities said was pulled over because it had expired registration tags. When another officer attempts to handcuff Mr. Wright, a second officer tells Mr. Wright he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when the struggle begins, followed by the shooting.

The account of the shooting from Mr. Wright’s family differed, with Katie Wright saying he was shot before getting back into the car.

Ms. Wright said that passenger was her son’s girlfriend. Ms. Wright said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.

“All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car,” Ms. Wright said. During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he’d had been shot.

Demonstrators gathered shortly after the shooting and crash, with some jumping on top of police cars and confronting officers. Marchers also descended upon the Brooklyn Center police department building, where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference. The protesters had largely dispersed by 1:15 a.m. Monday, he said.

About 20 businesses had been broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center, Mr. Harrington said. Law enforcement agencies were coordinating to tame the unrest, he said, and the National Guard was activated. Brooklyn Center is a city of about 30,000 people located on the northwest border of Minneapolis.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew in the city that expired at 6 a.m. Monday. In a tweet he said, “We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home.”

Police said Brooklyn Center officers wear body-worn cameras and they also believe dash cameras were activated during the incident. The department said it has asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate.

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death, was slated to continue Monday. Mr. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Mr. Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck. Prosecutors say Mr. Floyd was pinned for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.

Mr. Harrington said more National Guard members and state law enforcement personnel would be deployed around the Twin Cities and in Brooklyn Center in addition to personnel already in place for Mr. Chauvin’s trial.

Meanwhile, all Brooklyn Center students will be instructed online Monday because school buildings will be closed, Brooklyn Center Community Schools Superintendent Carly Baker said in a statement.

“We are focused on taking steps in the moment. I haven’t entirely processed the tragedy that took place in our community and I’m prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, staff members and community members,” Ms. Baker said. “We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.

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