The police chief in Minnesota where a black man was fatally shot during a traffic stop said he believes the officer who fired intended to use a Taser, not a handgun.
Brooklyn Centre Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as “an accidental discharge”. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating.
Daunte Wright, 20, died on Sunday in an area that was already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
Mr Gannon said at a news conference that the officer made a mistake, and he released body camera footage from the officer who fired.
The footage showed three officers around a stopped car. When another officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a struggle ensues. The officer is heard shouting “Taser” several times before firing her weapon.
“This was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr Wright,” the chief said.
Brooklyn Centre Mayor Mike Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic”.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole,” he said.
Minnesota Gov Tim Walz tweeted that he was praying for Mr Wright’s family “as our state mourns another life of a black man taken by law enforcement”.
I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.
— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) April 12, 2021
Speaking before the unrest, Mr 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 in Brooklyn Centre, a city of about 30,000 people on the north-west border of Minneapolis.
“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.”
Protesters who gathered near the scene waved flags and signs reading “Black Lives Matter”. Others walked peacefully with their hands held up. On one street, someone wrote in multi-coloured chalk: “Justice for Daunte Wright.”
Authorities said the car was pulled over for having expired registration and after determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police said they tried to arrest him.
Then the driver re-entered the vehicle, and an officer fired, striking him, police said. The vehicle travelled several blocks before striking another vehicle.
Mr Wright’s family offered a different account, with Katie Wright saying her son was shot before getting back into the car.
A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash, authorities said. Katie Wright said that passenger was her son’s girlfriend.
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.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and the White House has been in touch with the governor, mayor and local law enforcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We were incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of life at the hands of law enforcement in Minnesota yesterday,” she said.