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Violence flares after Brooklyn Center police fatally shoot man, 20, inflaming tensions during the Derek Chauvin trial

Violence flares after Brooklyn Center police fatally shoot man, 20, inflaming tensions during the Derek Chauvin trial

by Mara Klecker and Kim Hyatt | Star Tribune  |  Published on April 12, 2021

A Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot a man during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon, inflaming already raw tensions between police and community members in the midst of the Derek Chauvin trial.

Relatives of Daunte Wright, 20, who is Black, told a tense crowd gathered at the scene in the northern Minneapolis suburb Sunday afternoon that Wright drove for a short distance after he was shot, crashed his car, and died at the scene.

Protesters later walked to the Brooklyn Center police headquarters near N. 67th Avenue and N. Humboldt Avenue and were locked in a standoff with police in riot gear late Sunday night. Officers repeatedly ordered the crowd of about 500 to disperse as protesters chanted Wright’s name and climbed atop the police headquarters sign, by then covered in graffiti. Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets on the crowd.

National Guard troops arrived just before midnight as looters targeted the Brooklyn Center Walmart and nearby shopping mall. Several businesses around the Walmart were completely destroyed, including Foot Locker, T Mobile, and a New York men’s clothing store.

Looting was widespread late Sunday into early Monday, spilling into north and south Minneapolis. Reports said that stores in Uptown and along Lake Street were also being looted.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott issued a curfew order until 6 a.m. Monday. Precautions were being taken into Monday, with Brooklyn Center canceling or closing all school buildings, programs and activities.

“Our entire community is filled with grief following today’s officer-involved shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20 year old young man. Our hearts are with his family, and with all those in our community impacted by this tragedy,” Elliott said. “While we await additional information from the BCA who is leading the investigation, we continue to ask that members of our community gathering do so peacefully, amid our calls for transparency and accountability.”

Sunday’s fresh outrage came as Twin Cities officials and law enforcement are already on edge as Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, stands trial on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd’s death 10 months ago sparked waves of protests and violent demonstrations across the cities, which seriously damaged hundreds of buildings.

Law enforcement has already been bracing for unrest once the jury reaches a verdict, erecting barricades and marshaling an intense police presence at the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial resumes Monday.

The trial, which is being livestreamed, has drawn international attention.

Gov. Tim Walz tweeted that he was “closely monitoring the situation” and “praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

Elliott also tweeted, urging protesters to remain peaceful. According to Teddy Tschann, the governor’s spokesman, Walz and Elliott spoke Sunday night.

The multi-agency security plan called Operation Safety Net, put in place for the Chauvin trial, held a news conference early Monday morning to provide an update on actions being taken in the aftermath of the shooting.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Minneapolis will wake up to more National Guard stationed around the city due to reports of looting and shots fired. About 20 Brooklyn Center businesses were looted, he said, but crowds largely dispersed.

During the standoff with police, he said, “rocks and other objects” were thrown at law enforcement.

Harrington says he can’t comment on the shooting but he said the Brooklyn Center Police Department does have bodycams, so there is likely video.

After the shooting, Brooklyn Center police said officers pulled over a vehicle for a traffic violation shortly before 2 p.m. in the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue.

The driver, who had a warrant, got back into the vehicle as officers were trying to take him into custody. That’s when an officer discharged a weapon, striking the driver, police said. The vehicle traveled several blocks before crashing into another vehicle.

Officers and medical personnel performed lifesaving measures but the driver was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A female passenger was taken to the hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

Wright was identified by family members, not by authorities.

His family had said earlier that the shooting occurred in Plymouth but it had not.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was on the scene and will conduct an independent investigation.

Brooklyn Center officers wear body cameras and the Police Department said Sunday that it believes the body cameras and dash cameras were on during the incident.

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, tearfully pleaded near the scene Sunday afternoon for more information and for her son’s body to be moved from the street. She also urged the protesters to remain peaceful.

“All he did was have air fresheners in the car and they told him to get out of the car,” Wright said, explaining that her son called her when he was getting pulled over. During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the phone call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said Daunte had been shot.

“He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him,” she said. “He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47. … Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us. … I said please take my son off the ground.”

A woman who lives near the crash scene, Carolyn Hanson, said she saw officers pull a man out of a car and perform CPR. A passenger who got out of the vehicle was covered in blood, she said.

Within hours of the shooting, a couple hundred people had gathered near the scene, where emotions were running high.

Protesters pushed past police tape and confronted officers donning riot gear. Around 7:15 p.m., the crowd broke the windshields of two squad cars and police fired nonlethal rounds to try to disperse the crowd.

By 8:30 p.m., the remaining crowd gathered to light candles, burn sage and write messages in chalk on the street near the scene.

Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.

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