(BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn.) — Hundreds of people gathered outside the police department in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Wednesday evening as protests over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright continued for a fourth consecutive night.
“The crowd tonight continued to present some public safety challenges as they pulled on the fence, shot pyrotechnics, lobbed bricks and bottles over the fence,” Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said at a press conference just after midnight. “I think tonight we were around 500 people there, yelling and chanting late into the evening.”
There were no reports of looting or fires in Brooklyn Center, nor any such reports in nearby Minneapolis or Saint Paul, according to Harrington.
Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said he believes the size of the crowd was actually smaller than the previous night.
“Things started out very peaceful,” Langer told reporters. “I can tell you that the discussion we had internally was that the number one tool we wanted to use tonight was patience, and that’s what we exercised for a long period of time even though we saw groups coming and fortifying and we saw umbrellas and we saw plywood shields and makeshift barricades and blocks and bricks brought in to the scene.”
Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said “a lot” of objects were thrown at authorities Wednesday night.
The crowd “largely scattered” around the time of the 10 p.m. curfew when authorities decided to move in after issuing dispersal orders, Langer said. The Minnesota State Patrol did not use any chemical munitions or rubber bullets when enforcing arrests, according to Langer.
“We were very thankful there was not a strong entrenchment mentality of the people that were there at the event,” he said. “It was almost uneventful.”
The Minnesota State Patrol arrested about 24 people on charges ranging from violating curfew to riot, which was “much lower” than the previous night’s 72 arrests, according to Langer.
“We just want people to leave. We don’t want to arrest people,” he added. “The goal of law enforcement is not every night to see how many people we can arrest. Our goal is to plead and ask and direct and help people understand how not to get arrested by listening to our simple advice.”
The majority of those arrested Wednesday night were not Brooklyn Center residents, according to Hutchinson.
Although the protests are taking place outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters, the area is residential and there’s an apartment building adjacent to the police station. Harrington expressed concern over the impact the nightly protests are having on the neighborhood’s families. Langer also shared that sentiment but said he personally has not spoken to any residents of the nearby apartment building.
“Our preference is that we get this back to a position where it’s a peaceful assembly of people lifting up their voice to express their opinion, and we need people’s help to do that,” Langer said. “The commissioner and I and other leaders have been talking to people all day long saying, what can we do to intervene on this cycle of behavior and reaction and action that we’ve seen this week. And so my expectation, my hope, my desire is that tomorrow is better than tonight because tonight was better than last night.”
The protests began Sunday after the officer-involved shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black man and father of a 2-year-old boy.
Wright was driving in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis, when he was stopped by police Sunday afternoon. The officers initially pulled him over for an expired registration tag on his car but determined during the traffic stop that he had an outstanding gross misdemeanor warrant, police said.
As police tried to take him into custody, Wright got back into the car and one of the officers — identified as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department — fired her gun, striking him. A preliminary report released Monday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said Wright died from a gunshot wound to the chest and that his death was a homicide.
Police said Potter intended to deploy her Taser instead of her gun when she “accidentally” shot Wright. In body camera video, which was released at a press conference Monday, police said Potter could be heard warning Wright that she was going to deploy her Taser.
“However, the officer drew their handgun instead of their Taser,” Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday. “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet. 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 the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
Both Potter and Gannon submitted their resignations on Tuesday, effective immediately.
Washington County Attorney Peter Orput announced Wednesday that Potter, 48, had been arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter in connection with Wright’s shooting. She has been booked into the Hennepin County Jail, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the fatal encounter.
Potter posted bond and was released from jail Wednesday evening. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday at 1:30 p.m. local time, according to jail records.
A second-degree manslaughter conviction in Minnesota carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, Potter used her right hand to pull her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun from her duty belt and shoot Wright. The gun was holstered on the right side of her belt while her Taser was on the left. The grips or handles of both the gun and Taser face Potter’s rear. The Taser is yellow with a black grip and is “set in a straight-draw position, meaning [Potter] would have to use her left hand to pull the Taser out of its holster,” according to the complaint.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Potter’s case was being handled by his counterpart in nearby Washington County due to a new policy that was put in place last year “to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest in handling such cases.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Wright family, released a statement following Potter’s arrest and seemed to suggest that her actions warranted a more serious charge.
“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” Crump said. “This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force. Driving while Black continues to result in a death sentence. A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a taser and a firearm. Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant. Daunte’s life, like George Floyd’s life, like Eric Garner’s, like Breonna Taylor’s, like David Smith’s meant something.”
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