Hundreds gathered for a third night of protests to express anger over the police killing of a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb as prosecutors could decide as soon as Wednesday whether to charge the officer authorities say shot him.
The Washington County prosecutor is weighing charges for former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, he told CNN.
“I hope to have a charging decision by tomorrow,” prosecutor Pete Orput said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “I just received voluminous documents, and with enough coffee, I’ll have something tomorrow.”
Wright’s death Sunday during a traffic stop, which then-Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said appeared to be the result of Potter mistaking her gun for her Taser, has sparked widespread anger.
Protests, some violent, have taken place each night in and around Brooklyn Center, while related developments have unfolded quickly, including the release of body camera footage on Monday and the resignation of Potter and Gannon by Tuesday.
The third day of protest began peacefully, but by Tuesday evening, chaos erupted around the Brooklyn Center police station. Officers used pepper spray and fired flash bombs at protesters, who hurled water bottles and other projectiles at officers in riot gear.
Protesters were also seen scaling a fence outside the FBI office, holding a banner reading, “Justice for Daunte Wright.” Members of the National Guard were in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
By the time the city’s 10 p.m. curfew started, hundreds of protesters had dwindled to a few dozen. With officers and police vehicles forming a line across front yards and the street blocking the police precinct, those remaining draped themselves in blankets and lit a small garbage fire in the falling snow.
On the street where protesters were once shoulder to shoulder, the few remaining chanted: “Say his name: Daunte Wright,” and “I smell bacon, fry the pig.”
The unified command in Brooklyn Center made “upwards of 60 arrests” Tuesday night, many of which were for “riot and other criminal behaviors,” Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol Matt Langer said.
Speaking at the same late-night news conference, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said there was recognition of the pain suffered in the community on Sunday night.
“The person (Kim Potter) is no longer a police officer, and they’ll be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “But we can’t have people hurting our communities, we can’t have people hurting the men and women who are paid to protect them.”
Sunday’s killing of Wright is at least the third high-profile death of a Black man during a police encounter in the Minneapolis area in the past five years, after the shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights in 2016 and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd, is taking place just 10 miles from Brooklyn Center.
Attorney Earl Gray is representing Potter, he told CNN on Tuesday. Gray is also the attorney for Thomas Lane, one of four officers involved in Floyd’s death, and one of the defense attorneys for Jeronimo Yanez, the former police officer who was found not guilty in Castile’s death.
Two families come together in tragedy
Floyd’s family left the courthouse during Chauvin’s trial Tuesday “because they thought it was important that they give comfort to Daunte Wright’s mother” and family, attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference with the two families.
“We will stand in support with you. … The world is traumatized, watching another African American man being slayed,” said Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd. “I woke up in the morning with this on my mind. I don’t want to see another victim.”
The losses of both Wright and Floyd were acknowledged in Tuesday’s protests. Demonstrators knelt for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, to symbolize the amount of time authorities say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
And just as the Floyd family did last year, the Wright family is looking for more answers surrounding their loved one’s death.
One of the family’s attorneys, Jeffrey Storms, told CNN that Gannon’s explanation — that the shooting appeared to be an accident — “is by no means proper or enough.”
“There were a number of intentional events that led to (Daunte Wright) being dead, and we need to find out exactly why each one of those intentional events happened,” Storms said Tuesday.
“Grabbing your sidearm that you’ve likely deployed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of times is an intentional act,” Storms said. “A sidearm feels different than a Taser. It looks different than a Taser. (It) requires different pressure in order to deploy it.”
Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC on Tuesday that he couldn’t accept Gannon’s explanation that Sunday’s shooting was accidental.
“I can’t accept that — a mistake. That doesn’t even sound right,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He cited the officer’s length of service — authorities said she’d been with Brooklyn Center police for 26 years.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said she wanted to see the officer “held accountable for everything that she’s taken from us.”
“It should have never, ever escalated the way it did,” Katie Wright told ABC.
What happened in the traffic stop that ended Wright’s life
Wright was with his girlfriend Sunday afternoon, driving to the house of his older brother, Damik Bryant.
Officers pulled him over in Brooklyn Center for an expired tag and learned he had an outstanding warrant, police said.
It was not immediately clear what the warrant was for.
Wright gave officers his name before calling his mother, Bryant said.
“They asked him to step out the car, and you know his first instinct was, ‘What did I do, what’s wrong?’ And they were like, ‘Well, put the phone down, get out the car now, we’ll talk to you about it when you get out,'” Bryant said.
“He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror,” Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told CNN affiliate WCCO. “I heard the police officer come to the window and say, ‘Put the phone down and get out of the car,’ and Daunte said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car,'” Katie Wright told CNN affiliate KARE.
“So, I heard the phone get either put on the dashboard or dropped, and I heard scuffling, and I heard the police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run.’ And then the other officer said, ‘Put the phone down'” before it sounded like the phone was hung up, she said.
Body camera footage released Monday shows Wright standing outside his vehicle with his arms behind his back and an officer directly behind him, trying to handcuff him. An officer tells Wright “don’t,” before Wright twists away and gets back into the driver’s seat of the car.
Gannon said Monday it appeared from the video that Wright was trying to leave.
The officer whose camera footage was released is heard warning the man she’s going to use her Taser on him, before repeatedly shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Then, the officer is heard screaming, “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”
The car’s door closes, and Wright drives away. The car crashed several blocks away, police said. Police and medical personnel attempted life-saving measures following the crash, but Wright died at the scene, Gannon said.
Gannon said the portion of body-worn camera footage released Monday led him to believe the shooting was accidental and that the officer’s actions before the shooting were consistent with the department’s training on Tasers.