Female officer 'accidentally' shot, killed driver during traffic stop: Police chief

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A police officer who shot and killed a driver during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Sunday afternoon, meant to deploy her Taser instead of her gun, police said.

In a press conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon says he believes the female officer intended to deploy her Taser when she "accidentally" shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

The incident unfolded around 2 p.m. local time, when officers initiated a stop for an expired registration tag on a vehicle in the city in Minnesota's Hennepin County, about 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis. During the traffic stop, the officers determined that the driver of the vehicle had an outstanding gross misdemeanor warrant, according to Gannon.

"At one point as officers were attempting to take the driver into custody, the driver re-entered the vehicle," Gannon said in a statement Sunday. "One officer discharged their firearm, striking the driver."

At the press conference on Monday, the Brooklyn Center Police Department released body camera footage of the incident. Gannon said the officer can be heard warning Wright and her fellow officers that she will be deploying her Taser.

"However, the officer drew their handgun instead of their Taser," Gannon said. "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 officer can be heard yelling, "Holy s---, I just shot him," in the body camera footage.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the incident.

The officer, who has not been identified, is now on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Gannon said, identifying her as a "very senior officer."

The car traveled several blocks before crashing into another vehicle. The passengers in the other car were not injured, according to Gannon.

Officers and medical personnel "attempted life saving measures" on Wright, Gannon said, but he died at the scene.

A female passenger who was also in the vehicle with Wright sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, according to Gannon. She was transported to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, a few miles south of Brooklyn Center.

Wright's mother, Katie Wright, said she was on the phone with him before he was killed.

"I heard scuffling and I heard the police officers say, 'Daunte, don't run.' And then the other officer said, 'Put the phone down,' and hung it up," Katie Wright told reporters on Sunday. "And a minute later, I called and his girlfriend answered -- that was the passenger -- and said that he'd been shot, and she put [the phone] on the driver's side and my son was laying there lifeless."

In a statement to ABC News, Wright's family described him as a young father who "had a whole life ahead of him."

"We just want people to know Daunte was a good kid," Wright's family said in a statement. "He loved being a father to Daunte Jr."

"Daunte had a smile to make anyone's heart melt. He was definitely a jokester, he loved to joke with people, especially his brothers and sisters," the family added. "He did not deserve this."

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump -- who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and more -- will represent Wright's family.

At a press conference about his death, law enforcement officials would not say how or if the officer who shot Wright would be punished, but said all Brooklyn Center employees are "entitled to due process." Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott expressed his support for the removal of the police officer that killed Wright.

"We will get to the bottom of this," Elliott said. "We will do all that is within our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright."

Earlier that day, Elliott tweeted that he was taking a phone call with President Joe Biden about the administration's support following the incident.

Just got off the phone with the @WhiteHouse. I appreciate @POTUS reaching out to offer his administration's support. pic.twitter.com/ejrttTOhlI

- Mayor Mike Elliott (@mayor_Elliott) April 12, 2021Moments after the deadly shooting, dozens of protesters holding Black Lives Matter signs gathered at the scene.

John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said there were around 100 people at the scene who were "highly agitated" when investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension responded. The crowd was asked to disperse and did so shortly thereafter, as more agencies arrived on scene to coordinate a response to the protesters.

Later, crowds of 100 to 200 people marched toward the Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters, according to Harrington.

"We saw rocks and other objects thrown at the police department. There were reports of shots fired in the area of the police department," Harrington said at a press conference late Sunday night. "Within hours of that, a secondary group we heard was at the Shingle Creek mall or business center and we have reports of approximately 20 businesses that were broken into during that period."

Authorities declared the demonstration outside the police department an unlawful assembly and gave the crowds a 10-minute warning to clear out. Aerial footage obtained by ABC News shows police forming a perimeter around the building.

About 25 minutes later, officers started firing rubber bullets and flash bangs to disperse protesters remaining in the area. No injuries have been reported, and it is unclear if any arrests have been made.

Harrington said the crowd at the police department had largely dispersed as of late Sunday night, though there were still "some pockets of individuals."

Minnesota is mobilizing its National Guard to Brooklyn Center at the request of local authorities, according to Harrington.

The National Guard is already deployed in nearby Minneapolis for the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died on May 25 after Chauvin was filmed kneeling on his neck as other officers stood by.

"At this time, we have essentially a full activation," Harrington said. 'You will see a robust assortment of National Guard, state and local police departments working together over the next two or three days as we once again prepare for the trial and also are prepared for any other and any further civil unrest that may come from the Brooklyn Center officer-involved shooting today."

Col. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol told reporters that the public can expect to see "a greater law enforcement presence, a greater National Guard presence" in and around Minneapolis on Monday.

Shortly after midnight, the Brooklyn Center mayor issued a citywide curfew that remained in place until 6 a.m. local time on Monday. Elliott called for calm in the community and for authorities not to use force on peaceful protesters

"Our entire community is filled with grief following today's officer-involved shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old young man," Elliott said in a statement. "We continue to ask that members of our community gathering do so peacefully, amid our calls for transparency and accountability."

Metro Transit, the main public transportation operator in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, announced Sunday that it was shutting down public transit in Brooklyn Center at the request of law enforcement.

ABC News' Alexandra. Faul, Will Gretsky and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

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