Police fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop just outside Minneapolis on Sunday, once again inflaming tensions in the region while a former police officer in the Twin Cities is on trial for murder in the death of George Floyd.
The Brooklyn Center Police Department said it pulled over a vehicle shortly before 2 p.m. local time for a traffic violation. Officers discovered the driver had a warrant for his arrest, and when they tried to take the man into custody he attempted to get back into his car. An officer fired a weapon, striking the man, who then drove his car several blocks before it crashed into another vehicle.
The driver died at the scene despite life-saving measures performed by officers and medical personnel. The police said the officers on scene were wearing body cameras and the department believed they were turned on, including those mounted on the dashboards of their squad car.
Reports of the shooting sparked large protests throughout the night. A group of about 500 people eventually walked to the headquarters of the Brooklyn Center police, where they were met by officers in riot gear. Authorities called on the crowd to disperse, firing crowd-control devices into the protesters. National Guard troops were called to the scene just before midnight amid reports of looting.
Police have pushed large swath of crowd back across the street, into residential area with tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets. This came moments after a few people threw things at police line and organizers yelled at them to stop. pic.twitter.com/w0bK4Or9iN
— Liz Sawyer (@ByLizSawyer) April 12, 2021
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said later Monday night that he would issue a curfew order.
A woman who identified herself as Wright’s mother spoke at the scene shortly after the shooting, saying she wanted “justice for Dante.” She urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“We don’t want it to be about all this violence,” the woman, Katie Wright, told the Star-Tribune. “All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car.”
In an interview shared on Twitter by local KARE reporter Chris Hrapsky, Wright said she was on the phone with her son around the time he was shot by police.
“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,’” she recalled.
Wright said she heard what sounded like the phone being placed down inside of the car and then some “scuffling.” She heard one officer instruct her son not to run while another told him to put the phone down. Their call was then disconnected.
Wright said she called her son again about a minute later. His girlfriend, who had been a passenger in the vehicle, answered and informed her that her son had been shot.
“She put it on the driver’s side and my son was laying there, lifeless,” Wright said, describing what sounded like a video call.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) said he was “closely monitoring the situation.”
“Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement,” Walz said on Twitter.
I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) April 12, 2021
The shooting comes as the trial of Chauvin, the former police officer accused of murder for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest last year, is ongoing. Floyd’s death, captured on video and circulated on social media, sparked renewed protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
As the trial moved into its third week of testimony Monday, defense attorney Eric Nelson requested the judge sequester the jury following the shooting in Brooklyn Center and subsequent civil unrest. He also requested the court task each juror whether they were aware of the shooting and, if so, whether it had affected their ability to be an impartial juror in Chauvin’s trial.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the trial, denied Nelson’s request, stating that the shooting was “totally” separate from the Chauvin case.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
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