By Ankita Joshi
BROOKLYN CENTER, MN – Just a few miles down the road from the national murder trial of ex-officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd, a police officer Sunday shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a routine traffic stop.
Amid tensions fueled by the Chauvin trial, protests broke out and escalated quickly Sunday night, resulting in Mayor Mike Elliot enacting a curfew. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has spoken on the matter, and has opined that he believes the shooting was an accident.
Daunte Wright was initially pulled over during a traffic stop because of an expired registration sticker on the vehicle, and then for having an air freshener hanging from his mirror. After officers ran his name through the system, they found an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Body cam footage of the incident, which was released to the public on Monday, displays two officers walking over to the driver’s side and passenger side windows of the vehicle and gesturing to Wright to get out.
Once Wright stepped out of the vehicle, one officer attempted to place handcuffs on Wright, but Wright moved out of the way and got back in his vehicle with the driver’s side door still open.
The voice of a second officer can be heard yelling, “Tase him!” multiple times.
Immediately after, footage shows the officer dropping the gun and yelling, “S**t!”
Wright proceeded to drive several blocks before crashing, and the footage ends with the officer saying, “I just shot him.”
Medical services were deployed to the scene to treat Wright and the other car involved in the crash, but Wright was declared dead at the scene.
Wright’s girlfriend was also in the car, but was treated only for minor injuries.
Wright’s mother arrived at the scene soon after, as Wright had called her after initially getting pulled over.
He had told her that the reason he was pulled over was because of air fresheners he had hanging from his rearview mirror. She also told news reporters that police officers had left Wright’s body lying on the ground for hours.
That night, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Brooklyn Center, as well as outside the Brooklyn Center’s Police Department.
Matters escalated quickly, with police officers in riot gear and the use of tear gas on the protestors outside the Brooklyn Center. Law enforcement has also called for a greater response team, including a National Guard presence.
All school buildings, programs, and activities were shut down for the following day.
On Monday, Police Chief Gannon spoke about the incident, and the protests that occurred on Sunday night after the murder of Wright.
During this news conference, Gannon released the body cam footage to the public and commented on the training of his officers, and his opinion on the reaction of the officer who had shot and killed Wright.
Officers keep their handguns on their dominant side, and their Taser on their non-dominant side, he said, adding that this configuration of weapons is done purposefully, and is trained.
In regard to the incident, Gannon stated that he believed the officer’s actions were a mistake.
“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet. This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has started their own independent investigation outside of that of the Brooklyn Center’s Police Department, and the officer who shot and killed Wright has been placed on administrative leave.
Gannon finished his statement by remarking on the protests that took place on Sunday night.
He stated that he “fully supports peaceful protesting… But the ravaging of our businesses, the looting of our stores, the destruction to our pharmacies, we cannot tolerate that. ”
When questioned about why Wright was initially pulled over, Gannon explained that, based on the police reports, Wright was pulled over due to an expired registration sticker on the vehicle. Officers discovered there was a hanging item from the rearview mirror, but Wright was asked out of his vehicle because of the outstanding arrest warrant.
Mayor Elliot promised he would do everything in his power to “ensure justice is done for Daunte Wright.”
The Hennepin County medical examiner ruled Daunte Wright’s death a homicide on the basis that he died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Command of authority of the Brooklyn Center Police Department has also been transferred to the office of Mayor Elliot after a city council vote of 3-2.
Additionally, any further decisions made about the case will be done by Washington County in order to “avoid any conflict of interest.”
Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.
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