Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon on Monday described the shooting as “an accidental discharge.” He said the officer responsible intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun.
Body camera footage of the fatal encounter shows three officers around a stopped car. When another officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a struggle ensues.
“Taser! Taser! Taser!” one of the officers is heard shouting. Another officer fires a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away and the officer is heard saying, “Holy (expletive)! I shot him.”
Authorities said the car was pulled over for having an expired registration and after determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police said they tried to arrest him. The driver then re-entered the vehicle, and an officer fired, striking him, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.
A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, authorities said. Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, said the passenger was her son’s girlfriend.
So who was Daunte Wright?
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 in June. In that case, a statement of probable cause said police got a call about a man waving a gun who was later identified as Wright.
Katie Wright said her son called her as he was supposedly getting pulled over for having air fresheners hanging in his rear-view mirror – an offense in Minnesota.
“All he did was have air fresheners in the car, and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright said. During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.
Shortly after the shooting, demonstrators began to gather, with some jumping atop police cars. Marchers also descended on the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, authorities said.
Wright’s father, Aubrey, told the Washington Post that his son had just asked his mom for $50 for a carwash and was headed there when he was shot.
“I know my son. He was scared. He still [had] the mind of a 17-year-old because we babied him,” Wright told the outlet. “If he was resisting an arrest, you could Tase him. I don’t understand it.”
Aubrey said Daunte had a 2-year-old son and dropped out of high school two years ago because of a learning disability. Daunte has since worked in retail and fast-food restaurants to support his son and planned to get his GED, Aubrey told The Post.
“He was a great kid,” Aubrey Wright said. “He was a normal kid. He was never in serious trouble. He enjoyed spending time with his 2-year-old son. He loved his son.”
Court records indicate Daunte has had some previous brushes with the law. He was arrested in February on a charge of aggravated robbery but later released from custody.
In February 2020, Daunte was also convicted of a petty misdemeanor for disorderly conduct in connection with an event the prior summer. And in late 2019 he pleaded guilty to a petty misdemeanor for possession and sale of a small amount of marijuana.
Wright’s death comes as the area was already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in Floyd’s death, continued Monday. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is White, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. Prosecutors say Floyd was pinned for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
The judge in that case refused Monday to sequester the jury after a defense attorney argued that the panel could be influenced by the prospect of what might happen as a result of their verdict.
Speaking before Sunday night’s unrest in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people on the northwest border of Minneapolis, Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, urged protesters to stay peaceful and focused on the loss of her son.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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