Startled Minnesota officer apparently intended to use Taser, not gun, on Black man, according to police chief.
Protesters have clashed with police for the second night in the suburb of the US city of Minneapolis following the killing of a Black man during a traffic stop, with police calling the fatal shooting an “accident”.
Officials have said that the shooting death on Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright was “an accidental discharge”, adding that the officer had apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun.
The shooting sparked unrest in an area already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged over the killing of another Black man, George Floyd, last year.
Hundreds of protesters faced off against police in Brooklyn Center after nightfall on Monday, and hours after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced by the governor. When the protesters refused to disperse, police began firing tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and chasing some protesters away.
A long line of police in riot gear, rhythmically pushing their clubs in front of them, began slowly forcing back the remaining crowds.
“Move back!” the police chanted. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” the crowd chanted back. By late Monday, only a few dozen protesters remained.
Law enforcement agencies had stepped up their presence across the Minneapolis area after Sunday night violence.
The number of Minnesota National Guard troops was expected to more than double to more than 1,000 by Monday night.
‘Difference between plastic and metal’
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon earlier on Monday released body camera footage that showed the officer shouting at Wright as police tried to arrest him.
“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” she can be heard saying. 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 sh*t! I 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.”
But Wright’s brother, Dallas Bryant, told about 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Monday evening that his brother sounded scared during the phone call, and questioned how the officer could mistake a gun for a Taser.
“You know the difference between plastic and metal. We all know it,” he said.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic” and said the officer should be fired.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole,” he said.
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.
Moments ago the council passed a motion 3-2 to give command authority over our Police Department to my office. At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership. I appreciate the other councilmembers who voted to approve this motion pic.twitter.com/qa1cWMurkI
— Mayor Mike Elliott (@mayor_elliott) April 12, 2021
‘Was it an accident or intentional?’
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.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Gannon would not say whether she would be fired. “I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning,” he said.
US President Joe Biden described the video footage as “fairly graphic”.
“The question is .. was it an accident, was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” he told reporters on Monday.
Later, the president said he was thinking about Wright and his family “and the pain, anger, and trauma that Black America experiences every day”.
Today I’m thinking about Daunte Wright and his family — and the pain, anger, and trauma that Black America experiences every day. While we await a full investigation, we know what we need to do to move forward: rebuild trust and ensure accountability so no one is above the law.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 12, 2021
Brooklyn Center is a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70 percent of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.
“I have four African American boys, so as a father raising boys in America how do you think that makes me feel? It’s terrifying,” a Brooklyn Center resident told Al Jazeera.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, earlier said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.
During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.
Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.