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Police chief: Fatal Minnesota shooting was likely accident; cop meant to use Taser

By
Darryl Coote & Don Jacobson

April 12 (UPI) -- The fatal shooting of a Minnesota man during a traffic stop was likely accidental, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday. The officer meant to use a Taser, but instead fired a gun.

Officials didn't release the name of the officer, whom Gannon described during a press conference as a "very senior officer," the Star Tribune reported. She has been placed on administrative leave, and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said he would "fully support relieving the officer of her duties."

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Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Minneapolis suburb Sunday night to protest the shooting, which killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man.

Gannon said Wright was driving a vehicle with an expired tag when he was pulled over about 2 p.m. Sunday and found to have a misdemeanor warrant. Body camera footage appears to show the officer shout "Taser" several times before firing a single bullet.

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"It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet," Gannon said, the New York Times reported.

"This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr. Wright."

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The police also released video from an officer's body cam showing the encounter.

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Following the press conference, both the Minnesota chapter and the national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for the officer to be immediately fired.

"Delaying her termination adds insult to injury and risks further unrest in the community," CAIR-Minnesota Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said in a statement.

The shooting occurred during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, about 10 miles southeast of Brooklyn Center, for which Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz had authorized the deployment of the National Guard.

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Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the Memorial Day involved killing of George Floyd, whose death ignited protests nationwide against racial inequality.

Some 500 protesters surrounded the Brooklyn Center police headquarters Sunday night as officers clad in riot gear fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bangs to disperse them, the Star Tribune reported.

Shortly before midnight, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a curfew through 6 a.m. Monday.

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"We want to make sure everyone is safe," he said. "Please be safe and please go home."

The Minnesota Twins postponed their game against the Boston Red Sox, which had been scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Monday at Target Field.

"Out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Brooklyn Center, and following the additional details in this evolving situation, the Minnesota Twins have decided it is in the best interest of our fans, staff, players and community to not play today's game," the Twins said in a statement.

Shortly after, the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and the NHL's Minnesota Wild called off their Monday games. The T-Wolves were scheduled to play the Brooklyn Nets, and the Wild had a matchup against the St. Louis Blues.

Their moves came as Walz declared a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in the Twin Cities metro area counties of Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka.

Anyone "going out to exploit these tragedies for destruction or personal gain" can "rest assured that the largest police presence in Minnesota history in coordination will be prepared," Walz said at a news conference. "You will be arrested, you will be charged and there will be consequences for those actions."

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter each also issued emergency curfews.

President Joe Biden likewise called for calm.

"There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting, no justification for violence," he told reporters Monday in the Oval Office. "Peaceful protests are understandable ... the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it's serious, and it's consequential.

"But it will not justify violence and/or looting," he said.

Katie Wright, the mother of Daunte Wright, told reporters earlier Sunday that her son had called her as he was being pulled over by the police.

"He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from the review mirror," she said.

She said she heard "scuffling" over the phone before the line was disconnected. A minute later, she called back and Wright's girlfriend picked up.

"His girlfriend answered -- and that was the passenger -- and said that he'd been shot and she put it on the driver's side and my son was laying there lifeless," she said.

The department has asked the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting.

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