A Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot a man during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon, inflaming already raw tensions between police and community members in the midst of the Derek Chauvin trial.
Relatives of Daunte Wright, 20, who is Black, told a tense crowd gathered at the scene in the northern Minneapolis suburb Sunday afternoon that Wright drove for a short distance after he was shot, crashed his car, and died at the scene.
Protesters walked to the Brooklyn Center police headquarters near 67th Avenue North and North Humboldt Avenue and were locked in a standoff with police in riot gear late Sunday night. Officers repeatedly ordered the crowd of about 500 to disperse as protesters chanted Wright’s name and climbed atop the police headquarters sign, by then covered in graffiti.
Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets on the crowd. Scattered reports of looting were reported throughout the city.
Gov. Tim Walz tweeted that he was “closely monitoring the situation” and “praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott also tweeted, urging protesters to remain peaceful. According to Teddy Tschann, the governor’s spokesman, Walz and Elliott spoke Sunday night.
The Minnesota National Guard is already deployed to the Twin Cities for the Chauvin trial.
Wright was identified by family members, not by authorities.
According to Brooklyn Center police, officers pulled over a vehicle for a traffic violation shortly before 2 p.m. in the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue.
The driver, who had a warrant, got back into the vehicle as officers were trying to take him into custody. That’s when an officer discharged a weapon, striking the driver, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before crashing into another vehicle.
Officers and medical personnel performed lifesaving measures but the driver was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A female passenger was taken to the hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.
Wright’s family had said earlier that the shooting occurred in Plymouth but it had not.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was on the scene and will conduct an independent investigation.
Brooklyn Center officers wear body cameras and the Police Department said Sunday that it believes the body cameras and dash cameras were on during the incident.
Within hours of the shooting, a couple hundred people had gathered near the scene, where emotions were running high.
Protesters pushed past police tape and confronted officers donning riot gear. Around 7:15 p.m., the crowd broke the windshields of two squad cars and police fired nonlethal rounds to try to disperse the crowd.
But by 8:30 p.m., police presence eased and the remaining crowd calmly gathered to light candles, burn sage and write messages like “Justice for Daunte Wright” in chalk on the street near the scene.
Earlier in the evening, Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, tearfully pleaded near the scene for more information and for her son’s body to be moved from the street. She also urged the protesters to remain peaceful.
“All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright said. “He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him. He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47. … Nobody will tell us anything,” she said. “Nobody will talk to us. … I said please take my son off the ground.”
A woman who lives near the crash scene, Carolyn Hanson, said she saw officers pull a man out of a car and perform CPR. A passenger who got out of the vehicle was covered in blood, she said.
The death comes during the ongoing trial of Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd in south Minneapolis in May 2020. Floyd’s death sparked days of violent demonstrations in Minneapolis and across the country. The trial, which is being livestreamed, has drawn international attention during a time of intense scrutiny of policing.
Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.
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