Police chief now says Minnesota officer who shot, killed Black man apparently meant to use a Taser

The police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb apparently intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun, as the man struggled with police, the city's police chief said Monday.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as "an accidental discharge." It happened as police were trying to arrest the man 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 at a news conference. She draws her weapon after the man 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 [expletive]! I shot him."

The man, identified by relatives as 20-year-old Daunte Wright, died Sunday in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people on the northwest border of Minneapolis. His death sparked violent protests, with officers in riot gear clashing with demonstrators into Monday morning.

"This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officers' reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright," Gannon told reporters.

Minneapolis already on edge

The Minneapolis area was already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd's death.

Crowds of mourners and protesters gathered overnight where Wright's family says he was shot by police before getting back into his car and driving away, then crashing several blocks away. He was later pronounced dead.

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 1:15 a.m. Monday, he said.

Police officers take cover as they clash with protesters in Brooklyn Center. (Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images)

Harrington said that about 20 businesses had been broken into at the city's Shingle Creek shopping centre. He said law enforcement agencies were co-ordinating to tame the unrest, and the National Guard was activated.

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

At the briefing later, he told reporters that investigators would get to the bottom of what happened.

"We will do all that is in our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright," he said. 

"I want to say that our hearts are aching right now. We are in pain right now. And we recognize that this couldn't have happened at a worse time."

Attempted arrest

Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that officers had stopped a motorist shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. After determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police tried to arrest the driver. The driver re-entered the vehicle and an officer fired at the vehicle, striking the driver, police said. The vehicle travelled 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 hospital after sustaining injuries, according to EMS audio, the Star Tribune reported.

Katie Wright, 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, "Justice for Daunte Wright" was written in multi-coloured chalk.

By late Sunday, Brooklyn Center police had fired tear 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," Gov. 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."

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 last May, 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.

A woman who was tear gassed while confronting police raises her arms outside Brooklyn Center Police Department on Sunday night. (Nick Pfosi/Reuters)

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