Minneapolis: police and protesters clash for second night over death of Daunte Wright

  • Police deploy teargas and flash-bangs in Brooklyn Center
  • Wright’s father rejects police claim that shooting was accident

Police clashed with protesters for a second night in the suburbs of Minneapolis, after the officer-involved death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, rejected the police explanation for the shooting: that an officer meant to user her Taser during the traffic stop but fired her weapon instead.

“I lost my son, he’s never coming back,” Wright told ABC. “I can’t accept that – a mistake, that doesn’t even sound right. This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”

Anger ran high in Brooklyn Center overnight. Law enforcement agencies swarmed the suburb, deploying teargas, flash bangs and other non-lethal force to disperse hundreds of people who gathered outside police headquarters.

The Minnesota governor, Tim Walz, issued a 7pm curfew in the wake of Sunday night’s unrest but the large crowd defied verbal orders to go home. Police fired volleys of teargas, smoke and pepper-balls, initially from behind a new fence, before advancing in formation and pushing the remaining protesters back.

Some protesters responded by launching fireworks towards police as drum beats pounded and people chanted Daunte Wright’s name.

Police are now firing flash bangs, smoke and pepper balls into the crowd. Some are dispersing but others firing fireworks. pic.twitter.com/mnkrXe6jGv

— Oliver Laughland (@oliverlaughland) April 13, 2021

The confrontations occurred hours after Brooklyn Center police released body-camera footage of the shooting, which took place on Sunday evening, showing the unarmed Black man’s death. The police chief, Tim Gannon, described the shooting as “an accidental discharge” after the video appeared to show the officer, later identified as Kim Potter, threatening to use her Taser electrical weapon before opening fire.

In the released footage, Potter can be heard to shout: “Holy shit, I just shot him.”

Wright had been pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and was shot dead after a brief scuffle. His mother, Katie Wright, told ABC her son called her during the stop.

“Daunte said, ‘For what, am I in trouble?’ I heard the phone getting put down pretty hard. And then I heard scuffling and the girl that was with him screaming, and I heard an officer ask for them to hang up the phone and then I didn’t hear anything else.

“I tried to call back three, four times and the girl that was with him answered the phone and she said that they shot him and he was lying in the driver’s seat unresponsive. And then I heard an officer ask her to hang up the phone.”

She added: “I know my son was scared. He’s afraid of the police, and I just seen and heard the fear in his voice. But I don’t know why and it should have never escalated the way it did.”

On Monday, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris called for accountability over the shooting.

“Prayers are not enough,” Harris said on Twitter. “Daunte Wright should still be with us. While an investigation is under way, our nation needs justice and healing, and Daunte’s family needs to know why their child is dead – they deserve answers.”

Biden called for calm after the footage was released, saying: “We do know that the anger, pain and trauma amidst the Black community is real.” But that, he added, “does not justify violence and looting”.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama issued a statement in which he said “our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man … at the hands of police” and said Wright’s death was “a reminder of just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country”.

The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, called for the department to fire Potter, labelling the shooting “deeply tragic”.

“We cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people,” he said.

On Monday afternoon Elliott, the suburb’s first Black mayor, announced that the city council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department, to “streamline things and establish chain of command and leadership”.

Late on Monday evening the mayor appeared alongside the Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, in front of protesters after police dispersed many who broke curfew.

“I’m going to do everything I can in my power to make sure justice is done,” said Elliott, dressed in a suit and wearing a protective helmet.

Ellison, whose office is prosecuting four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed in Minneapolis last May, told the crowd: “This thing is not going to be swept under the rug. We’re going to deal with it in a real way.”

Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles north of Minneapolis city center, is a suburb made up of about 30,000 people, 29% of whom are Black.

The area was tense before the Wright shooting, as the former police officer Derek Chauvin was brought to trial over death of Floyd. On Monday the trial entered its third week and saw tearful testimony from Philonise Floyd, who told the court his brother was “a person that everybody loved around the community”.

Chauvin’s defence was expected to start calling witnesses, with the trial due to conclude early next week. Three other officers involved in restraining Floyd will go on trial in August.

On ABC, Katie Wright thanked protesters and asked that demonstrations be peaceful. She also remembered her son.

“He had a two-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him,” she said. “He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much. He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”

Contributors

Oliver Laughland in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota and Martin Pengelly in New York

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