People march through the streets of Manhattan to protest the recent killing of a black man by police in Minnesota on April 12, 2021 in New York City. AFP
The fatal police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man in a Minneapolis suburb appeared to be an "accidental discharge" by an officer who drew her gun instead of her Taser during a struggle following a traffic stop, the city's police chief said on Monday.
The shooting on Sunday of Daunte Wright triggered unrest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse angry protesters who kept to the streets into the early Monday morning hours.
The attempted arrest of Wright, who police say was stopped due to an expired car registration, occurred not far from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former white Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, is taking place.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told a news briefing on Monday that the routine traffic stop escalated into a deadly shooting when officers ran a check on Wright and found an outstanding warrant for him.
Video footage presented at the briefing showed an officer trying to handcuff Wright next to the car, before he breaks free and gets back inside the car. At that point, a second officer whose body camera was being viewed yells, "Taser, Taser, Taser," before firing a single shot from her handgun at the bottom of the screen.
"Holy shit, I just shot him," the policewoman is heard to yell as the car rolls away.
"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 said, adding that the investigation was in its early stages and based on evidence reviewed by the police.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said the officer, who was placed on administrative leave and has not been identified, should be fired.
Elliot said the shooting "couldn't have happened at a worse time" with the trial of Chauvin forcing another reckoning with the death of Floyd, which triggered nationwide protests over racism and police brutality last year.
President Joe Biden was due to speak briefly about Wright's death later on Monday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, also a Democrat, has called a briefing for 2 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT) to address the incident.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who helped win a $27 million legal settlement for the Floyd family, said he is also representing the Wrights.
"Daunte Wright is yet another young Black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us - not just the whitest among us," Crump said in a statement. "As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father."
Wright's mother, Katie Wright, had told reporters on Sunday she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out the vehicle, she said.
Gannon, who described the officer as "very senior" in the department, said that when police pulled Wright over due to an expired license plate "a hanging item from the rear-view mirror" was discovered.