The police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb appeared to be an “accidental discharge” by an officer who drew her gun during a struggle rather than a Taser, the city’s police chief said on Monday.
The shooting on Sunday that led to the death of Wright, who was Black, took place during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, not far from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is taking place.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon unveiled video footage from a body-worn camera at the news briefing on Monday. It showed a struggle between Wright and the officer. Wright then got back into the car and an officer could be heard yelling “Taser, Taser.”
Then, the car speeds off and a female officer can be heard saying: “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”
Gannon commented: “This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officers’ reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr Wright.”
Wright’s death has prompted widespread demonstrations in Brooklyn Center, which have turned violent.
The mayor of neighboring Minneapolis has declared a state of emergency and announced a curfew will be in effect from 19:00 Monday to 06:00 Tuesday local time. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests last summer.
The Minnesota National Guard is guarding the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and law enforcement officers were erecting a concrete barrier as Minnesota State Patrol officers joined the line in front of the precinct.
“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott told the briefing. “We are in pain right now. And we recognise that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” Elliott said. “We will do all that is in our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”
President Joe Biden on Monday said he had spoken to authorities in Minnesota about the shooting, adding that federal resources are in the area to help maintain peace and calm.
He also said that while peaceful protests are “understandable … I want to make it clear there is no justification – none – for looting. No justification for violence.”
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, had told reporters on Sunday she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out of the vehicle, she said.
In a statement, Brooklyn Center police said officers pulled over a man for a traffic violation just before 14:00 CDT (19:00 GMT) and found he had an outstanding arrest warrant. As police tried to arrest him, he got back in the car.
Minnesota police fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop. Family say police stopped him for having an air freshener in his rearview mirror.#DaunteWright was 20.
Police shot him as he reentered his car, claiming he had an outstanding warrant, and he crashed blocks away. pic.twitter.com/53N3t9SkU3
One officer shot the man, who was not identified in the statement. The man drove several blocks before striking another vehicle and dying at the scene.
When asked if there would be charges in the case, Gannon said it was “far too early”.
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