Daunte Wright Shooting Sparks Anger, Clashes in Minnesota as Chauvin Trial Nears End
Protesters called for police accountability Monday evening in this Minneapolis suburb, a day after the shooting death of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, whose death police described as a tragic accident.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police force, as the officer who police say accidentally shot and killed Mr. Wright after discharging her gun instead of her Taser during a traffic stop Sunday.
Ms. Potter couldn’t be reached late Monday, and a union official declined to comment.
Katie Wright, Mr. Wright’s mother, spoke Monday evening at a rally at the site where he was shot by police. At the Brooklyn Center Police Department, about 2 miles away, protesters shouted and banged drums, chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “Our streets, our streets.” Others chanted Mr. Wright’s name. Some threw water bottles at police and set off fireworks. Windows at a Dollar Tree store across the street were broken and the store was looted.
Police said protesters were violating curfew and lobbed chemicals at the crowd. Fences and jersey barriers surround the department.
At a news conference early Tuesday, Col. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol said about 40 arrests were made at the Brooklyn Center Police Department protest. He said people were arrested for violations including breaching curfew and rioting.
Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka counties are under curfews from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Col. Langer said a few officers suffered some minor injuries at the Brooklyn Center Police Department protest.
“We’re not aware of any protesters that were injured,” he said.
Amelia Huffman, the Minneapolis Police Department’s deputy chief for professional standards, said five business burglaries were reported in the city on Monday night. She said city police made 13 arrests on Monday amid the demonstrations, including one for an outstanding warrant.
Mr. Wright was shot and killed on Sunday in Brooklyn Center during a traffic stop by local police. In a scuffle with police, Ms. Potter discharged her gun and shot him, even though she appeared to believe she was firing her Taser, body-camera footage released Monday showed.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said the shooting was accidental. Ms. Potter is on administrative leave and the shooting is being investigated.
At the rally for her son, Ms. Wright said he had “a smile that was angelic” and “lit up the room,” according to a video posted by local media.
“He did not deserve this at all. My heart is literally broken into a thousand pieces,” Ms. Wright said. “I just need everyone to know that he was my life. He was my son. And I can never get that back because of a mistake, because of an accident.”
Security was already tight in the city for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murdering George Floyd. Mr. Floyd’s death last May prompted nationwide marches, as well as arson, looting and violence in Minneapolis and around the country.
Since the trial began in early March, there have been some protests in Minneapolis calling for justice in the case. They have involved a few hundred people and have been peaceful.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said that while “we lament what happened yesterday,” neighborhoods shouldn’t be further traumatized by destruction and despair, and people must not come out “to exploit the death of Wright as an excuse to wreak havoc and destruction on our neighborhoods.”
Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild postponed games in the Twin Cities that were scheduled for Monday.
Col. Langer, the Minnesota State Patrol’s chief, said state patrol and natural-resources-conservation officers have been deployed to the metro area. He asked Minnesotans to help get people to obey the curfew to “get through today, tonight, peacefully.”
On Sunday night, about 100 National Guard members helped secure the police headquarters in Brooklyn Center. About 500 members were assigned to help secure the metro area, with that number to grow, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant Gen. Shawn Manke said.
Activists said that they were suspicious of the police chief’s description of the shooting as accidental.
Several people gathered Monday afternoon at 63rd Avenue North and Kathrene Drive, near where police stopped Mr. Wright on Sunday.
A sculpture of a raised fist stood on the corner—the same fist, said artist jordan powell karis, that originally sat at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the days after George Floyd’s death. A pile of flowers had been left in Mr. Wright’s name.
A woman, who declined to give her name, said she was angry over Mr. Wright’s death. “I feel like I’m having déjà vu. We’re doing this again?” said the woman, who wore a sweatshirt that read, “All lives matter when Black Lives Matter first.”
Earlier on Monday, police in riot helmets and National Guard members lined the sidewalk outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where a stone sign had been sprayed with antipolice graffiti.
Bystanders gathered to watch from across the street. One woman, dressed in black, stood with a large white sign propped against her legs, the words “Silence is violence” written in black marker. Another carried a black-and-white flag that read “Black Lives Matter.”
About 100 to 200 people marched on the Brooklyn Center police department overnight Sunday, said John Harrington, director of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, in a briefing. Some people threw rocks and shots were fired. Another group of people broke into about 20 businesses at a shopping center.
A Minneapolis activist, Nekima Levy Armstrong, posted a video of police using flashbang grenades to disperse the crowd late Sunday night. Activists called for the police chief to be fired, saying the department’s response to the protests overnight was excessive.
Ms. Levy Amstrong, who was outside the police department overnight, said Mr. Wright was “killed under egregious questionable circumstances.”
During a Monday press conference, Chief Gannon said police repeatedly asked people to disperse, and that officers had become targets for concrete blocks and frozen cans of soda. Officers responded in kind, he said. An officer was hit in the head with a brick and injured, he said, and transported to a hospital. Only two people were arrested, he said.
“We had to disperse the crowd because we couldn’t allow our officers to be harmed,” said Chief Gannon.
Mr. Harrington said in a press conference Monday afternoon that the command staff at the Brooklyn Center Police Department was taken by surprise by the “size and intent” of the protest, and that triggered their response, which included tear gas and nonlethal munitions.
Videos shared on social media showed looters making off with merchandise from Walmart and other nearby businesses in Brooklyn Center. Some businesses were completely cleared out, according to the posts.
Mr. Harrington said the National Guard was also being deployed in Minneapolis, where there were reports of looting as well.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden has been briefed on the police shooting.
Mr. Biden said he had watched the body camera footage of the incident, which he referred to as “fairly graphic.”
“The question is, Was it an accident, was it intentional? That remains to be determined,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday. “I think we got to wait and see what the investigation shows. The entire investigation.”
Mr. Biden also urged protesters to remain peaceful, saying there was “absolutely no justification for violence.”
“Peaceful protest is understandable. And the fact is that we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, serious and consequential,” Mr. Biden said. “But that does not justify violence.”