BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Police fatally shot a man after a traffic stop on Sunday in suburban Minneapolis, sparking clashes between hundreds of protesters and officers in an area where tensions are already high during the ongoing trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
The victim’s family identified him as 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Hours after the shooting, hundreds of protesters surrounded the police headquarters and clashed with officers in riot gear, who fired flash bangs and tear gas. The Minnesota National Guard, which is deployed to the Twin Cities for the Chauvin trial, later arrived to assist police as numerous businesses in the area were broken into.
Police said the shooting happened just before 2 p.m., when an officer stopped a car on a traffic violation and found the driver had an outstanding warrant. As police tried to arrest him, he got back into the car and an officer fired at him, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said in a news release.
The man drove for several blocks before striking another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A female passenger suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening and was transported to a hospital, police said.
Police have not identified the officer who fired or the victim. At a news conference early on Monday, authorities also declined to say whether the victim was armed, pending a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation.
Aubrey Wright identified the victim as his son, Daunte, who is Black. He said police pulled him over because an air freshener was allegedly blocking his rearview mirror – a claim Aubrey Wright questioned because the car had tinted windows.
Brooklyn Center is about 10 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, where a murder trial is underway for Chauvin, the former officer accused of killing George Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes before he died last year.
“This is not a neighborhood where stuff happens like this,” said Wright, who added that the family lives about three miles from where the shooting took place.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “tragic” and urged both protesters and police to remain peaceful.
“We are asking the protesters to continue to be peaceful and that peaceful protesters are not dealt with force,” Elliott tweeted.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, D, said he was “closely monitoring the situation” in the city of about 30,000 people. “Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement,” Walz tweeted.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota called for an “immediate, transparent and independent investigation by an outside agency.” It also demanded the quick release of any body-camera footage, as well as all the names of the officers and agencies involved.
“We have concerns that police appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do too often to target Black people,” tweeted the ACLU of Minnesota.
Aubrey Wright, 42, said his son had recently asked his mother for $50 for a carwash, and was headed there when he was shot. They had recently bought him the car, his father told The Washington Post.
Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told the Star-Tribune that her son had called her after being pulled over and that she heard a commotion and then someone yelling “Daunte, don’t run” before the line disconnected. Moments later, she said, her son’s girlfriend, who was in the car, called back and said he’d been shot.
Aubrey Wright, who was at a grocery store, said his wife called him around 2 p.m. with the news. “She was screaming over the phone. She was saying, ‘Daunte was shot!'” he said.
When Aubrey Wright arrived at the scene less than 10 minutes later, he said, he saw his son’s 2011 Buick LaCrosse partially destroyed and his son’s body covered with a white sheet on the sidewalk.
Nearby, a distraught Katie Wright urged police to remove her son’s body from the ground.
“All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright told the Star-Tribune through tears. “He got out of the car and his girlfriend said they shot him. He got back in the car and drove away and crashed – and now he’s dead on the ground.”
Aubrey Wright questioned whether police had to use lethal force.
“I know my son. He was scared. He still [had] the mind of a 17-year-old because we babied him,” Wright said. “If he was resisting an arrest, you could Tase him. I don’t understand it.”
Daunte Wright, who had a two-year-old son, dropped out of high school about two years ago because of a learning disability, his father said. Since then, he worked in retail and fast-food restaurants to support his son. He planned to go back to school to get his GED.
“He was a great kid,” Aubrey Wright said. “He was a normal kid. He was never in serious trouble. He enjoyed spending time with his two-year-old son. He loved his son.”
In the hours after the shooting, protesters gathered at the scene. Initially, people waved Black Lives Matter flags and chanted at the police, KSTP reported, until some began jumping on a squad car and threw concrete blocks into the windshield. Katie Wright used a speaker to ask protesters to stay calm, according to KSTP.
Some protesters came directly from an earlier rally in St. Paul organized by families with relatives who had been killed by police. Toshira Garraway Allen, whose son’s father was found dead in 2009 after fleeing officers, drove to the scene to comfort Daunte’s mother.
“It was really hurtful for me today,” Garraway Allen told The Post. “I had to leave there to rush to be by the side of another family.”
Protesters clashed with police in riot gear as police fired less than lethal rounds, the Star-Tribune reported.
By 10 p.m., the crowd, now in the hundreds, had marched to the local police headquarters. Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Say his name, Daunte Wright” as police launched tear gas and flash bangs and ordered people to move back. Tensions escalated when police fired a flare at a protester who was kneeling on the ground with his hands up.
In the crowd, Isaiah Caldwell, 22, stood facing the officers. He said in high school, he was close friends with Daunte’s sister and that they all used to go to the Boys & Girls Club in West St. Paul. He described Daunte as a “good guy” who “had a lot of love for his family.”
“He didn’t deserve that,” Caldwell said. “It’s not right.”
Following the protests, at least 20 businesses at a nearby mall were broken into, John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference early on Monday.
Elliott later announced a citywide curfew in Brooklyn Center from 1 a.m. until 6 a.m. on Monday. “Please be safe and please go home,” he tweeted.
After 1 a.m. local time, most of the crowd outside the police station and a nearby mall dissipated, Harrington said. More troops from the National Guard will be deployed to the area this week, Harrington added.
(c) 2021, The Washington Post · Jared Goyette, Andrea Salcedo · NATIONAL, COURTSLAW, RACE · Apr 12, 2021 – 7:01 AM