Officer meant to use Taser, Minnesota police chief says
“We cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people. We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole.”
—Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — 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, as police clashed with protesters for the second night in a row.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting death Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright as “an accidental discharge.” It happened as police were trying to arrest Wright on an outstanding warrant. The shooting sparked protests and unrest in a met- ropolitan area already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” the officer is heard shouting on her body camera 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.”
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, identified the officer as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran who has been placed on administrative leave.
Gannon would not say whether she would be fired.
“I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning,” the chief said.
Crowds began gathering outside the the Brooklyn Center police station late Monday afternoon, with hundreds there by nightfall despite the governor’s dusk-to-dawn curfew. A drum beat incessantly, and the crowd broke into frequent chants of “Daunte Wright!” Some shouted obscenities at officers.
About 90 minutes after the curfew deadline, police began firing gas canisters and flashbang grenades in an attempt to drive them away, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and pushing some back at least briefly. Some protesters, wearing gas masks, picked up smoke canisters and threw them back toward police.
Law enforcement agencies had stepped up their presence across the Minneapolis area after the Sunday night violence. The number of Minnesota National Guard troops was expected to more than double to over 1,000 by Monday night.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic” and said the officer should be fired.
“We cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole.”
Elliott later announced that the city council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department.
This “will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. He also said the city manager had been fired, and that the deputy city manager would take over his duties.
The reason behind the firing was not immediately clear, but the city manager controls the police department, according to the city’s charter.
Body camera 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 Wright, a second officer tells him he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when the struggle begins, followed by the shooting. Then the car travels several blocks before striking another vehicle.
Information for this article was contributed by Scott Bauer, Tim Sullivan, Aaron Morrison and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press. Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.