Minnesota Police officers stand guard outside the Brooklyn Center Police Station after a police officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 12, 2021 Photograph:( AFP )
The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota announced the resignation of that town's police chief and of the officer who fatally shot at Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man who had struggled with police after a traffic stop
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described the most recent shooting death of a Black man in Minnesota by a police officer as "God awful" and said he and members of the Congressional Black Caucus were meeting to deliver "real change."
The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota announced the resignation of that town's police chief and of the officer who fatally shot at Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man who had struggled with police after a traffic stop.
Mayor Mike Elliott told reporters they resigned after the Brooklyn Center city council passed a resolution to dismiss both the chief, Tim Gannon, and the officer who shot Wright, Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force.
The moves followed two nights of protests in the city of 30,000 people just miles from Minneapolis, a city already on edge with the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said he was "appreciative" that Potter submitted her resignation but that he had not asked for it nor accepted it. It wasn't immediately clear what that would mean.
Gannon has said he believed Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun when she was going for her Taser. She can be heard on her body camera video shouting "Taser! Taser!"
However, protesters and Wright's family members say there's no excuse for the shooting and it shows how the justice system is tilted against Blacks, noting Wright was stopped for expired car registration and ended up dead.
Elliott said the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she resigned. He said he hoped her resignation would "bring some calm to the community," but that he would keep working towards "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.
Activists who attended the news conference called for sweeping changes to the Brooklyn Center Police Department and sharply criticized the acting police chief, Tony Gruenig, for not yet having a plan.
Elliott said the department has about 49 police officers, none of whom live in Brooklyn Center. He said he didn't have information on racial diversity at hand but that "we have very few people of colour in our department".
The 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 was stopped for having expired license plates. Police then tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant 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 in June.
Former US President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement on Tuesday calling for a "full and transparent investigation" following "yet another shooting of a Black man."
Body camera footage released Monday shows Wright struggling with police when an officer shouts, "I'll Tase you! I'll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!" 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." Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the medical examiner. Protests began within hours.
In her one-paragraph letter of resignation, Potter, a 26-year veteran, said, "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."
Wright's father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday that he rejects the explanation that Potter mistook her gun for her Taser.
"I lost my son. He's never coming back. I can't accept that. A mistake? That doesn't even sound right. This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can't accept that," he said.
Chyna Whitaker, mother of Daunte's son, said at a news conference that she felt police "stole my son's dad from him."
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the police union, said in a statement Tuesday that "no conclusions should be made until the investigation is complete."
Prosecutors in Hennepin County, where the shooting occurred, said they have referred the case to nearby Washington County -- a practice county attorneys in the Minneapolis area adopted last year in handling police deadly force cases. The Washington County Attorney's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Elliott, the mayor, called for the governor to move the case to the attorney general to prosecute.
Asked to comment, John Stiles, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the attorney general has confidence in Washington County Attorney Pete Orput's review of the case.
Ben Crump, the Wright family's attorney, spoke outside the Minneapolis courthouse where a fired police officer is on trial in Floyd's death. Crump compared Wright's death to Floyd's, who was pinned down by police when they tried to arrest him for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 at a neighbourhood market last May.
Daunte Wright "was not a threat to them," Crump said. "Was it the best decision? No. But young people don't always make the best decisions. As his mother said, he was scared."
Potter has experience with investigations into police shootings. She was the police union president and one of the first officers to respond after Brooklyn Center police fatally shot a man who allegedly tried to stab an officer with a knife in 2019, according to a report from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
(With inputs from agencies)