Medical examiner declares Daunte Wright death a homicide
During a news conference Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said the officer "drew their handgun instead of their Taser" during a fatal traffic stop Sunday.
Family members identified the man killed in the shooting as 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Gannon described the shooting as “an accidental discharge.” He reiterated that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
Monday evening, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest. The medical examiner’s office declared the manner of death a homicide.
Police say officers pulled Wright over for expired tabs but then found he had a warrant out for his arrest after running his name through their system.
Court records reveal the warrant was issued on April 2 of this year. Wright was wanted for failure to appear in court on charges alleging that he waved a gun in public and then ran from police last summer.
However, in Sunday’s encounter, police say Wright did not have a gun and no gun was found in the car.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said, "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. Having a police-involved shooting happen in our community and killed a young man is just unfathomable."
Monday afternoon, the Brooklyn Center City Council passed a motion that gave command authority of the Brooklyn Center Police Department to the mayor’s office.
Moments ago the council passed a motion 3-2 to give command authority over our Police Department to my office. At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership. I appreciate the other councilmembers who voted to approve this motion pic.twitter.com/qa1cWMurkI— Mayor Mike Elliott (@mayor_elliott) April 12, 2021
Elliot also tweeted Monday afternoon, saying the city manager was relieved of his duties. The city’s deputy city manager will be assuming the duties of the position.
Effective immediately our city manager has been relieved of his duties, and the deputy city manager will be assuming his duties moving forward. I will continue to work my hardest to ensure good leadership at all levels of our city government.— Mayor Mike Elliott (@mayor_elliott) April 12, 2021
Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center, released the following statement:
"I appreciate that body camera footage has been released so quickly. No matter what we learn as this situation develops, it is clear that our community is facing a traumatic experience that will cause a lot of pain. We must stand together as a community, and focus our energy on maintaining peace while seeking justice. I am monitoring the situation closely and will work to ensure that the ongoing process is transparent and forthcoming. My heart goes out to the victim and their family, this is a shocking tragedy that no family should have to experience."
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump also announced he’s been retained by Wright’s family.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman issued the following statement:
"I would like to start by offering my sincerest sympathy and prayers to the family of Daunte Wright during this heartbreaking time.
"The five Urban County Attorneys adopted a new practice and procedure concerning the police use of deadly force cases one year ago, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest in handling such cases.
"The County Attorney in the jurisdiction where the shooting occurs referred the case to one of the other County Attorneys, or the Attorney General, for all decisions including a charging decision or any potential prosecution. This policy has been followed in several cases in different counties in the past year.
"Accordingly, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has sent to the Washington County Attorney the case concerning the recent tragic death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Further decisions on this case, upon completion of the investigation being under taken by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), will be made by the Washington County Attorney’s office."
Crump issued the following statement:
"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. 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. This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane. What will it take for law enforcement to stop killing people of color? The growing number of Black men and women who have been killed or harmed by police is far too hefty a price for the equality we are seeking. We join Daunte’s family in demanding justice for him, and holding those responsible for his death accountable."
Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com for updates on this developing news.
An earlier version of this report appears below.
The mayor of Brooklyn Center is expected to speak Monday and Minnesota National Guard members have been mobilized following civil unrest after police fatally shot a driver during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon.
Prior to Monday’s briefing, Mayor Mike Elliott said President Joe Biden’s administration also reached out to him to offer support.
Family members identified the man killed in the shooting as 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked with Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, who said her son called her during that stop and told her he was pulled over because he had air freshener in the rear view mirror.
"He said, ‘Mom, they want to know about insurance.’ I said, ‘When the police officer comes back to the window, put them on the phone and I will give them the insurance information,’" Katie Wright said. "Then I heard the police officer come to window and say, ‘Put the phone down and get out of the car’ and Daunte said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.’"
Katie Wright said she heard the phone drop and scuffling and then heard the officer tell her son not to run; that’s when the phone hung up.
She said she called back a minute later and his girlfriend answered. She was in the car with Daunte Wright and told his mom he’d been shot and was dead.
According to investigators, during the traffic stop, officers determined the driver had an outstanding warrant.
Police said he was shot after trying to get back into the car as an officer was trying to arrest him.
At that point, an officer then shot the driver, and the car kept driving for several blocks before crashing into another vehicle. Police said a woman in that car was taken to the hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening.
Investigators said they believe body-worn and dash cameras were activated during the incident and that there are now calls for that video to be turned over.
Overnight, looters targeted stores around the Twin Cities, including about 20 businesses at a strip mall in Brooklyn Center. Not far from there, a large group of demonstrators outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department was met with flash-bangs and tear gas by police.
Crowds started gathering early Sunday afternoon after the shooting.
The Minnesota National Guard reported in an update Monday morning that more than 500 members have been activated in support of Minnesota Operation Safety Net as of Monday morning and that there are expedited plans to activate additional Guard members in response.
We are in the process of expediting those plans to bring additional Guardsmen on duty in response to the events overnight in Brooklyn Center. We will continue to assist in protecting lives and property and maintaining peace in Minnesota’s community.— MN National Guard (@MNNationalGuard) April 12, 2021
Katie Wright said the events that have unfolded are not what she wants.
"He was only 20 years old, he didn’t deserve to be shot and killed for this," she said. "I don’t want all of this, all of this. I just want my baby home."
In statement released overnight, Daunte Wright’s family said he was a good kid and a father himself. He was a jokester who loved to make people laugh. Family said he did not deserve this, that he had his whole life ahead of him.
The Brooklyn Center Police Department said it has asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said more National Guard members would be deployed around the metro and in Brooklyn Center.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help Wright’s family with funeral and burial costs.