A Black man died after being shot by police in a Minneapolis suburb during a traffic stop and crashing his car several blocks away, sparking violent protests that lasted into the early hours Monday as officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators and the man’s mother called for calm.
The man was identified by family as 20-year-old Daunte Wright, and he died Sunday in a metropolitan area already on edge and midway through the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted he was praying for Wright’s family “as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”
Speaking before the confrontation in Brooklyn Center between protesters and law enforcement, Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, attempted to curb any unrest.
“All the violence, if it keeps going it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason,” she said to a crowd near the shooting scene. “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back.”
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Police didn’t immediately identify Wright, but protesters who gathered near the scene waved flags and signs reading “Black Lives Matter.” Others walked peacefully with their hands held up. On one street, written in multi-colored chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”
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 reentered the vehicle and an officer fired at the vehicle, striking the driver, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.
The account of the shooting from Wright’s family differed, with Katie Wright saying he was shot before getting back into the car.
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Katie Wright told reporters at the scene that her son called her saying that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, illegal in Minnesota. She then heard officers tell her son to get out the vehicle, according to NBC affiliate KARE, and the sound of scuffling before the call ended.
“A minute later I called, and his girlfriend answered, which was the passenger in the car, and said that he’d been shot,” Katie Wright said.
Wright's girlfriend 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 Wright tearfully pleaded for more information regarding the incident and for her son’s body to be moved from the street.
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.
Demonstrators gathered shortly after the shooting and crash, with some jumping on top of police cars and confronting officers. Marchers also descended upon the Brooklyn Center police department building, where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference. The protesters had largely dispersed by 1:15 a.m. Monday, he said. Brooklyn Center is a city of about 30,000 people located on the northwest border of Minneapolis.
About 20 businesses had been broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center, Harrington said. Law enforcement agencies were coordinating to tame the unrest, he said, and the National Guard was activated.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew in the city that expired at 6 a.m. Monday. In a tweet he said, “We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home.”
In a statement, the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union called for an “immediate, transparent and independent investigation by an outside agency.” The group also said it deeply concerned "that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people.”
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.
Harrington said more National Guard members and state law enforcement personnel would be deployed around the Twin Cities and in Brooklyn Center in addition to personnel already in place for Chauvin’s trial.
Meanwhile, all Brooklyn Center students will be instructed online Monday because school buildings will be closed, Brooklyn Center Community Schools Superintendent Carly Baker said in a statement.
“We are focused on taking steps in the moment. I haven’t entirely processed the tragedy that took place in our community and I’m prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, staff members and community members,” Baker said. “We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process.”