A white Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb and the city’s chief of police resigned Tuesday, moves that the mayor said he hoped would help heal the community and lead to reconciliation after two nights of protests and unrest.
Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned two days after the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.
Potter, a 26-year veteran, had been on administrative leave following Sunday’s shooting, which happened as the Minneapolis area was already on edge over the trial of the first of four police officers in the death of George Floyd, who was killed last May.
Gannon has said he believes Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun when she was going for her Taser. She can be heard on her body camera video shouting “Taser! Taser!”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said at a news conference that the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she resigned. Elliott said he hoped her resignation would “bring some calm to the community” but that he would keep working toward “full accountability under the law.”
“We have to make sure that justice is served, justice is done. Daunte Wright deserves that. His family deserves that,” Elliott said.
“That’s what we’re going to continue to work for,” the mayor said.
Asked later in the same briefing whether Potter’s resignation meant that he could not fire her, Elliott said he had not accepted her resignation. It was not immediately clear what that would mean. Firing Potter could affect her pension and ability to work in law enforcement elsewhere.
Protesters gather for a 3rd night
A decision on whether prosecutors will charge Potter could come as soon as Wednesday. Meanwhile, the cities of Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and St. Paul imposed 10 p.m. local time curfews.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered again Tuesday at Brooklyn Center’s heavily guarded police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence, where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch. “Murderapolis” was scrawled with black spray paint on a concrete barrier. The group also marched to the Minneapolis office of the FBI, a couple of blocks away.
“Daunte Wright! Say his name!” the crowd chanted. “No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!”
About 90 minutes before the curfew deadline, authorities announced over a loudspeaker that the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters shaking the fence and throwing objects at police, who responded with flashbangs and gas grenades.
“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, warning that anyone not leaving would be arrested. The state police said the dispersal order came before the 10 p.m. curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police.
The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave the scene.
‘I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you!’
Wright was shot as police were trying to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.
“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” the officer is heard shouting on her body cam footage released Monday. She draws her weapon after Wright breaks free from police outside his car and gets back behind the wheel.
After firing a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away, and the officer is heard saying, “Holy shit! I shot him.”
WATCH | This police body cam video shows the moments before the shooting of Daunte Wright. CBC News has edited the video to freeze before Wright is shot, but the audio continues:
Potter sent a one-paragraph letter of resignation.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” she wrote.
Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC’s Good Morning America earlier on Tuesday that he rejects the explanation that Potter pulled the wrong weapon.
“I lost my son. He’s never coming back. I can’t accept that. A mistake? That doesn’t even sound right,” he said. “This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”
Protests erupted for a second night following Sunday’s shooting, heightening anxiety in an area already on edge as the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin progresses. George Floyd, a Black man, died May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes.
‘They stole my son’s dad from him’
Several of Wright’s family members appeared with Floyd’s family Tuesday afternoon to speak about their loss, including the mother of Wright’s young son.
“I feel like they stole my son’s dad from him,” said Chyna Whitaker. “His dad didn’t get to see him for his second birthday or for any of his birthdays.”
Wright’s mother, who was on the phone with him during the traffic stop, said he was forced to hang up the phone when police ordered him to get out of the car.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Katie Wright told reports and supporters gathered in Minneapolis. “I never imagined this was what was going to happen. I just thought maybe he was being arrested.”
When she finally connected with the passenger who was in the car with Wright, she learned her son had been shot.
WATCH | Daunte Wright’s mother describes that moment:
Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police last June.
He died of a gunshot wound to the chest, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office concluded.
On Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered hours after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced by the governor. When protesters wouldn’t disperse, police began firing gas canisters and flash-bang grenades, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and chasing some protesters away.
Forty people were arrested, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said at a news conference early Tuesday. In Minneapolis, 13 arrests were made, including for burglaries and curfew violations, police said.
Brooklyn Center, a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis, has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70 per cent of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.
Wright’s death prompted protests in other U.S. cities, including in Portland, Ore., where police said a demonstration turned into a riot Monday night, with some in the crowd throwing rocks and other projectiles at officers.