Man shot by Minnesota officer in traffic stop crashes, dies; protests erupt

Published April 12, 2021
Protesters clash with police in front of the Brooklyn Center Police station on Sunday in Brooklyn Center. — AP
Protesters clash with police in front of the Brooklyn Center Police station on Sunday in Brooklyn Center. — AP

Crowds of mourners and protesters gathered in a Minnesota city where the family of a 20-year-old black man say he was shot by police before getting back into his car and driving away, then crashing several blocks away. The family of Daunte Wright said he was later pronounced dead.

The death sparked protests in Brooklyn Center into the early hours of Monday morning as Minneapolis was already on edge and midway through the trial of the first of four police officers in George Floyd’s death. Brooklyn Center is a city of about 30,000 people located on the northwest border of Minneapolis.

John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said at a middle-of-the-night news conference that marchers had descended upon the Brooklyn Center police department building after the Sunday afternoon shooting. Rocks and other objects were thrown at officers but the protesters had largely dispersed as of 1:15am Monday, he said.

Harrington added that about 20 businesses had been broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center. He said law enforcement agencies were coordinating to tame the unrest, and the National Guard was activated.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew in the city until 6am on Monday. In a tweet he said, “We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home.”

Police officers take cover as they clash with protesters after an officer shot and killed a man in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 11. — AFP
Police officers take cover as they clash with protesters after an officer shot and killed a man in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 11. — AFP

Anti-police protesters have already spent recent days rallying in Minneapolis as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a white former city policeman, enters the third week in a courthouse ringed with barriers and soldiers from the National Guard.

Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter for kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, who was handcuffed during the deadly arrest last May, video of which sparked global protests against police brutality.

A curfew was imposed in Brooklyn Center until 6am Monday (11 GMT), Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home,” he said in a tweet addressed to protestors.

Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that officers had stopped an individual shortly before 2pm on Sunday. After determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police tried to arrest the driver. The driver reentered the vehicle and drove away. An officer fired at the vehicle, striking the driver. Police said the vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.

Police did not identify the driver who was shot but said the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the person’s name following a preliminary autopsy and family notification. A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash.

A police officer was also transported to the hospital after sustaining injuries, according to EMS audio, the Star-Tribune reported.

Katie, Daunte’s mother, tearfully pleaded for more information regarding the incident and for her son’s body to be moved from the street.

A woman who lives near the crash scene, Carolyn Hanson, said she saw law enforcement officers pull a man out of a vehicle and perform CPR. A passenger who got out of the car was also covered in blood, Hanson said.

Public mourners included Wright’s family and friends who gathered, wept and consoled each other alongside protesters who jumped atop police cars, confronted officers, carried “Black Lives Matter” flags, and walked peacefully in columns with their hands held up. On one street, written in multi-coloured chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”

By late Sunday, Brooklyn Center police had fired gas into the crowd of protesters who had gathered outside the police station. Flash bangs were also used to disperse protesters overnight.

“I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center,” Governor Tim Walz tweeted late Sunday. “Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a black man taken by law enforcement.”

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Police said Brooklyn Center officers wear body-worn cameras and they also believe dash cameras were activated during the incident. The Brooklyn Center Police Department said it has asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate.

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in George Floyd’s death, was slated to continue Monday. Harrington, the public safety commissioner, said more National Guard members would be deployed around the city and in Brooklyn Center.

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