Officer Shoots, Kills Unarmed Black Man During Traffic Stop, Protests Break Out

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People gather at the spot where a police officer shot and killed a black man in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 11, 2021. – Protests broke out April 11, 2021 night after US police fatally shot a young Black man in a suburb of Minneapolis — where a former police officer is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Hundreds of people gathered outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. Police fired teargas and flash bangs at the demonstrators, according to an AFP video journalist at the scene. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

The second officer then pointed a gun at Wright who was still struggling, and yelled “Taser!” three times before shooting Wright.

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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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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46 thoughts on “Officer Shoots, Kills Unarmed Black Man During Traffic Stop, Protests Break Out”

  1. Keith Olsen

    Good article and reporting from the author.  Non opinionated and just the facts.

    That said, if you watch the police video of the shooting you can’t come away with any other conclusion than the female officer involved thought she was tasing Daunte Wright when she actually shot him.  A terrible mistake, but it wasn’t deliberate.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s plausible, but you can still get to second degree murder through gross negligence. Just like Chauvin wasn’t trying to kill Floyd, but ends up being charged with second degree murder.

      1. Keith Olsen

        The other thing that has to be considered is why did Wright fight off the officer applying his handcuffs and try to flee while being apprehended for an outstanding warrant?   Anyway you look at this it doesn’t justify the looting and destroying of businesses and the aggression towards the cops trying to maintain order.  And how does the city manager get fired for simply saying the officer involved Kimberly Potter should get due process?

        1. David Greenwald

          From a legal standpoint the details are now irrelevant. The officer admitted negligence. She said that she meant to use a taser – a less than lethal use of force and instead used lethal force. That means that any claim about Wright’s conduct is irrelevant because we have the officer’s acknowledgement that she used an improper level of force.

          Seems like you are more worried about the reaction and defending the cop than lamenting the needless loss of life… again.

        2. Alan Miller

          Seems like you are more worried about the reaction and defending the cop than lamenting the needless loss of life… again.

          Seems like you are using ‘seems like’ . . . again.

  2. Keith Olsen

    Here’s the police video of the incident, Vanguard readers can see that it was an accidental shooting on the part of the officer.  She shouted ‘taser’ three times before firing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgAUrDTUk4Q

    “Seems like you are more worried about the reaction and defending the cop than lamenting the needless loss of life… again.”

    David, statements like this are wrong and uncalled for. You’re better than that, or at least you should be.

    1. David Greenwald

      Because every time one of these police incidents occur you exclusive focus is on (A) defending the officer and (B) focusing on the reaction. Based on that I said what it “seems” to me from interacting with you on these issues since Ferguson and even before.

       

       

      1. Keith Olsen

        Have you watched the video with an open mind?  Can you honestly say the police officer meant to shoot Wright with her gun?  Would Wright still be alive today if he had just done what the officers ordered and let them hand cuff him and take him in to be processed?  Why would anyone want to escalate this when it was obviously an accident?   We all know that answer though, don’t we David?

        That’s my fourth comment, since all of us commenters are at a disadvantage to you when it comes to the number of our comments allowed compared to you, I will have to save my last comment until later.

        1. David Greenwald

          Did you actually read my comment? At no point did I argue that she meant to shoot Wright with a gun, I explained to you the law and what the charges could be.

        2. Eric Gelber

          Why would anyone want to escalate this when it was obviously an accident?

          No. From what’s known at this point, this was not an “accident.” It was negligence. There’s a difference.

          An accident is defined as an “unfortunate happening” that occurs “unintentionally” and results in “harm, injury, damage or loss.” By contrast, “negligence” as defined by most jurisdictions in the United States including California, is the lack of “ordinary care” or “skill” in the “management of person or property” that caused injury or harm to another person.

          The distinction is significant in determining whether or not someone is at fault and liable for any injury or harm done.

        3. Don Shor

          Would Wright still be alive today if he had just done what the officers ordered and let them hand cuff him and take him in to be processed?

          He’d be alive today if police didn’t pull people over for expired registration tags and air fresheners hanging in the window.

        4. Ron Oertel

          Don: I don’t know anything about an air freshener in this case, but are you suggesting that police stop pulling people over for expired registration?

          And perhaps (also) stop trying to detain people with outstanding warrants, e.g., when they try to get away? How safe would it be for other drivers, in situations like that?

          Also, how many drivers with expired registration (also) have no insurance?

        5. David Greenwald

          Berkeley just passed an ordinance prohibiting stops for things like expired registrations only.  After this, likely to see more momentum for that in Davis and elsewhere.

        6. Alan Miller

          Berkeley just passed an ordinance prohibiting stops for things like expired registrations only.  After this, likely to see more momentum for that in Davis and elsewhere.

          The key word there is “Berkeley”.

          Pytel’s arguments against such a policy for Davis in his response were solid.

          If we are considering this, let’s let Berkeley be the guinea pig, and consider it for Davis only after Berkeley has had this program solidly in place for two years so that Davis can review the results.

  3. Tia Will

    Ron

    I do suggest precisely that police stop pulling people over for expired registrations, broken tail lights, and the like. Notice I didn’t say take no action, I said not pull them over. Given the immediate electronic communication available to all of us, the process could be to call or text the relevant license information and deficit into the police station and a clerk could issue the equivalent of a fix-it ticket with the date due. Roadway stops for minor infractions protect no one and potentially put both civilians and police at risk unnecessarily.

    A suspect attempting to flee is a different issue, and in my opinion, should depend on the severity of the suspected infraction. In the Chauvin case, it was over a misdemeanor fake bill passage. Flight should never have been a consideration since he was clearly making no attempt to avoid arrest. His “crime” was fear of being placed in the back of a squad car…so why not call for and await a larger vehicle such as the ambulance?

    1. Don Shor

      Notice I didn’t say take no action, I said not pull them over. Given the immediate electronic communication available to all of us, the process could be to call or text the relevant license information and deficit into the police station and a clerk could issue the equivalent of a fix-it ticket with the date due.

      Exactly. We have automatic toll collection on all the Bay Area bridges now. Simple to implement with respect to expired registrations. I don’t think a clerk is even needed.
      The arrest warrant was for a failure to appear (misdemeanor) for a gun charge.
      Now he’s dead.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Response to a mixture of comments (and two different cases):

        The arrest warrant was for a failure to appear (misdemeanor) for a gun charge.

        Gee, that doesn’t sound too important.

        A suspect attempting to flee is a different issue, 

        Have you watched the video, in this case?

        His “crime” was fear of being placed in the back of a squad car…so why not call for and await a larger vehicle such as the ambulance?

        Lots of assumptions in there, and some facts left out. And actually, that’s not even the “crime” he was arrested for.

        Exactly. We have automatic toll collection on all the Bay Area bridges now. Simple to implement with respect to expired registrations. I don’t think a clerk is even needed.

        Yeah – I’m sure that all suspects (who have expired registration, possibly no insurance, have ignored outstanding warrants, and try to escape when confronted by the police) will be all too happy to respond to that.

        At times, it seems to me that some on the comment section live on a completely different planet/society than the one I’m familiar with. And, have a fundamentally different understanding/belief regarding human nature.

        1. Alan Miller

          At times, it seems to me that some on the comment section live on a completely different planet/society than the one I’m familiar with. And, have a fundamentally different understanding/belief regarding human nature.

          RO, sounds like you haven’t read the worldwide best seller, “Conservatives are from Mercury, Liberals are from Pluto”.  Really helps explain the differences in how the differing political ideologies view the world.  Oh, I should also mention the subtitle, “Progressives are from Uranus” 😐

    2. Edgar Wai

      What is the logic of letting someone keep driving when their vehicle has no current registration?

      The procedure could have been the police pulls over the car, require the car keys without arresting.  Then maybe impound the car.

      Since the police is not trying to arrest, it is okay if the suspect flees (on foot).

      The result is that the police keeps an unregistered car off the road.

      1. David Greenwald

        I suggest you read the research on fines and fees and all the imposition on lower socio economic people and the ultimate degree of harm that they do before continuing down this line.

        1. Ron Oertel

          If you can’t afford to register, insure, and smog test a car, you shouldn’t have one in the first place. Those things are required by law, for a reason.

          And if you can’t afford fines, then take action to avoid them. Or again, don’t have a car.

          Sorry if that inconveniences some.  But, it’s nothing compared to the impact on others, if you don’t.

          Again, going back to the reason for laws (other than to cause “systemic racism” in the eyes of some).

          My fifth comment, I think.

          1. David Greenwald

            Actually it’s pretty devastating to lose a vehicle when you’re poor. Often lose jobs and accumulate even more debt, that’s why I suggested he read the research on it.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Too bad, so sad.  At what point does personal responsibility come into play?

          I guess only those wealthy enough to follow the law, are the ones who have to follow the law – according to this argument.

          It’s also pretty devastating to others when you cause an accident and don’t have insurance.  And I would think that at some point, it’s also more difficult for law enforcement to track down unregistered vehicles that are involved in other crimes.

          I assume that registration fees also pay for a variety of government costs, related to cars.

          And hey, why not just “park anywhere” then, drive however recklessly you want (since you can’t afford a ticket) and let your car belch-out unregulated smog.

          After all, they “can’t afford” to follow the law.  So, everyone else needs to be “mindful” of that, I guess. These folks deserve special driving and car ownership privileges, it seems.

          Actually, if one is irresponsible enough, they probably can’t afford to drive a car even with significant income. I’ve known people who might meet that definition.

          I miscounted – this is my fifth comment.

           

           

           

          1. David Greenwald

            “Too bad, so sad. At what point does personal responsibility come into play?”

            You probably should have stopped while you were behind. Is the point of the law to put people behind the eight ball? The reason states are moving away from these punitive fines and fees is that they end up creating more problems than they solve.

        3. Edgar Wai

          If it is about affordability, vehicle registration should be free for all.

          As I explained in another thread.  There is no reason to charge registration fees.  This is not home economics.

          Needing to pay for workers at DMV and charging a fee are separate considerations for a sovereignty.

        4. Edgar Wai

          In-between law:

          You could make it free for each person to register one car.

          And charge much higher fees for registering a second car.

          Then if any car has no or expired registration, they can all be impounded and auctioned.

        5. Ron Oertel

          Is the point of the law to put people behind the eight ball?

          Laws are enacted to protect other people, and are an integral part of society.  Do I really need to explain this?

          Your sole, repeated focus is on offenders (and the harm that they are ultimately causing to themselves, as if that is “society’s fault”), rather than the damage that they cause to others.

          And no – at a certain point, I don’t give a sh*t about people who harm others, and refuse to change or take responsibility for it. As well as those who help them in that quest.

        6. Richard_McCann

          Ron O

          Why can’t fines be income based? Why should Bill Gates be able to basically ignore a speeding ticket of several hundred dollars because it’s pocket change, while that can wipe out the remainder of another person’s discretionary income for the month? Do you have any empirical data that supports your premise that these fines are set in a manner that to reflect the “social harm” or to provide the differential deterrent effect based on income? (That’s rhetorical because you can’t provide evidence that doesn’t exist.) Personal responsibility is important, but it is as equally important that the requirements of responsibility are imposed equitably in a manner that reflects the differential consequences of the punishment. When Gates pays $10,000 for a speeding ticket and a person on MediCal pays $20, you’ll have an argument. We’re a long ways away from that now.

        7. Ron Oertel

          Richard: I agree.  I think Bill Gates should pay for my registration, insurance, and any tickets I get as well.  He certainly can afford it more easily than I can.

          I’d suggest that he also pay for any gasoline that I use, maintenance costs, and initial purchase price of my vehicle.

          Oh – and if I ever live in an area where they no longer require off-street parking for new developments, I’d suggest that he also pay for the cost of garaging my vehicle. (Somewhere nearby, as I don’t want to have to walk too far to access it.)

  4. Ron Oertel

    Berkeley just passed an ordinance prohibiting stops for things like expired registrations only.

    Does that apply to I-80?  I believe that the Highway Patrol gets their funding from car registrations.

    Also, are there any statistics regarding how many with expired registration also have no insurance? And/or, outstanding prior violations and warrants?

    1. Richard_McCann

      I was part of a study 20 years ago that included looking at insurance rates across communities. In some places, more than 25% of the vehicles did not have insurance, and even so, most of those vehicles were registered. Many owners get insurance for the renewal and then cancel it. Registration has little to do with enforcing insurance requirements.

      1. Richard_McCann

        Based on the data we gathered in a study for CARB, this “reporting” isn’t happening. And the fact is that no one comes to take the tags off the car when the insurance is cancelled. The physical appearance is that the car is registered, and that’s all that matters. It’s toothless.

  5. Keith Olsen

    From what’s known at this point, this was not an “accident.” It was negligence. There’s a difference.

    You go ahead and call it what you want but it was an accident that the female officer grabbed the wrong weapon.

    He’d be alive today if police didn’t pull people over for expired registration tags and air fresheners hanging in the window.

    First, if our police never pulled anyone over for expired registration tags why would anyone ever pay the fees or get smog checks for that matter?  Secondly, if Wright didn’t resist arrest and had allowed the officers to bring him in for processing he would still be alive.

    My fifth and final comment even though I see one commenter has nine posts so far.

    1. Eric Gelber

      You go ahead and call it what you want but it was an accident that the female officer grabbed the wrong weapon.

      Wrong again. An accident is if you crash into the car ahead of you because the brakes on your rental car fail. Negligence is if you crash because you were texting while driving.

      If a cop has two similar weapons on her belt, one lethal, and intends to use the non-lethal one, any ordinary standard of reasonableness would require the cop to check to be sure she grabbed the right one.

       

      1. Ron Oertel

        Accident:

        an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap:

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/accident

        Criminal negligence seems to have a more complicated definition, which would not doubt be argued over if charges are filed.  But, I would think that if two weapons are located near each other (e.g., on a belt), that might be a mitigating factor.  Or, if training is not sufficient, to “practice”.

        I recall another incident like this, where an officer grabbed the wrong weapon.

        any ordinary standard of reasonableness would require the cop to check to be sure she grabbed the right one.

        I don’t think they have time to “check”.  They have to know where to reach for the right weapon, in advance.

        Bottom line is that it appears (to me, at least) that something can be an “accident” and “negligent”, simultaneously. Probably most accidents have some degree of negligence.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I suspect that an answer to that won’t be found on this blog. But again, it appears that something can be an “accident” and “negligent”. It does not appear to be an “either/or” choice.

          And then there’s “criminal”, vs. “civil” negligence.

          Some entity is going to be held responsible for this, I suspect. In other words, centered around negligence.

          Personally, I view “accidents” (even negligent ones) as not deserving of the highest punishment. (Just like the guy who negligently killed that woman on 2nd Street, by driving extremely recklessly, as I recall. Actually, I view that as “worse”.)

          1. David Greenwald

            “I suspect that an answer to that won’t be found on this blog. But again, it appears that something can be an “accident” and “negligent”. It does not appear to be an “either/or” choice.”

            In this case an accident occurs due to negligence – i.e. the officer makes a fatal error by using the gun rather than the taser. Based on the law, they can be criminally charged if the DA deems them to be criminally negligent.

  6. Edgar Wai

    If I were to write the law, criminal negligence should only apply to habits, meaning the officer routinely doesn’t check what weapon she grabbed.

    If the officer does not already have complains on her routine negligence and she is not on “probation”, then she should be given a warning, and be on probation. She could resign from the position. If she does not resign and keep working and she was negligent again, she can be charged with criminal negligence.

    A person can be negligent, but not all incidents of negligence are criminal negligence.

  7. Richard_McCann

    I saw this post on Facebook and thought it made the dilemma faced by Blacks so personal. Please read and consider:

    “I need to drive my two-year-old to daycare tomorrow morning. To ensure we arrive alive, we won’t take public transit (Oscar Grant). I removed all air fresheners from the vehicle and double-checked my registration status (Daunte Wright), and ensured my license plates were visible (Lt. Caron Nazario). I will be careful to follow all traffic rules (Philando Castille), signal every turn (Sandra Bland), keep the radio volume low (Jordan Davis), and won’t stop at a fast food chain for a meal (Rayshard Brooks). I’m too afraid to pray (Rev. Clementa C. Pickney) so I just hope the car won’t break down (Corey Jones).

    When my wife picks him up at the end of the day, I’ll remind her not to dance (Elijah McClain), stop to play in a park (Tamir Rice), patronize the local convenience store for snacks (Trayvon Martin), or walk around the neighborhood (Mike Brown). Once they are home, we won’t stand in our backyard (Stephon Clark), eat ice cream on the couch (Botham Jean), or play any video games (Atatiana Jefferson).

    After my wife and I tuck him into bed around 7:30pm, neither of us will leave the house to go to Walmart (John Crawford) or to the gym (Tshyrand Oates) or on a jog (Ahmaud Arbery). We won’t even walk to see the birds (Christian Cooper). We’ll just sit and try not to breathe (George Floyd) and not to sleep (Breonna Taylor).

    These are things white people simply do not have to think about.”

    – Author unknown

     

     

    1. Keith Olsen

      That author should’ve also wrote:

      If I’m stopped by the police I will listen and obey their every command.  If they remove me from my vehicle I will not resist and try and speed away.

      1. David Greenwald

        Which doesn’t take into account mental health disorders, trauma-informed responses, PTSD and the like. Why not have police officers and other professionals who can respond without the unnecessary use of deadly force?

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