A Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb and the city’s chief of police resigned Tuesday, moves that the mayor said he hoped would help heal the community and lead to reconciliation after two nights of protests and unrest.
Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned two days after the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Potter, a 26-year veteran, had been on administrative leave following Sunday’s shooting, which happened as the Minneapolis area was already on edge over the trial of the first of four police officers in George Floyd’s death.
Gannon has said he believed Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun when she was going for her Taser. She can be heard on her body camera video shouting “Taser! Taser!”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said he was “appreciative” that Potter submitted her resignation but that he had not asked for it. Elliott said he was not sure if it was because she had heard that she would soon be fired. He said he hoped her resignation would “bring some calm to the community,” but that he would keep working towards “full accountability under the law.”
“That’s what we’re going to continue to work for,” Elliott said. “We have to make sure that justice is served, justice is done. Daunte Wright deserves that, his family deserves that.”
The mayor said the new police leadership was committed to working with community leaders and protesters, who say Wright was racially profiled.
“We’re hoping that we’re turning over a new leaf now,” he said. “I’m confident of that now.”
Wright was shot as police were trying to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.
“I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” the officer is heard shouting on her body cam footage released Monday. She draws her weapon after the man breaks free from police outside his car and gets back behind the wheel.
After firing a single shot from her handgun, the car speeds away, and the officer is heard saying, “Holy (expletive)! I shot him.”
Potter, a 26-year veteran, sent a one-paragraph letter of resignation.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter wrote.
Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that he rejects the explanation that Potter mistook her gun for her Taser.
“I lost my son. He’s never coming back. I can’t accept that. A mistake? That doesn’t even sound right. This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that,” he said.
Protests erupted for a second night following Sunday’s shooting, heightening anxiety in an area already on edge as the Derek Chauvin trial progresses. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death. Potter initially was placed on administrative leave during the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation into Wright’s death.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the police union, issued a statement Tuesday saying “no conclusions should be made until the investigation is complete.”
Body camera footage Gannon released less than 24 hours after the shooting shows three officers around a stopped car, which authorities said was pulled over because it had expired registration tags. When one officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a second officer tells him he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when the struggle begins and Potter shoots Wright.
He died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office.
Potter has experience with investigations into police shootings. Potter was one of the first officers to respond after Brooklyn Center police fatally shot a man who allegedly allegedly tried to stab an officer with a knife in August 2019, according to a report from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
After medics arrived, she told the two officers who shot the man to get into separate squad cars, turn off their body cameras, and not to speak to each other. She was also the police union president for the department and accompanied two other officers involved in the shooting while investigators interviewed them.
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.
Demonstrators began to gather shortly after the shooting, with some jumping atop police cars.
On Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered hours after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced by the governor. When protesters wouldn’t disperse, police began firing gas canisters and flash-bang grenades, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and chasing some protesters away. Forty people were arrested, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said at a news conference early Tuesday. In Minneapolis, 13 arrests were made, including for burglaries and curfew violations, police said.
Brooklyn Center is a modest suburb just north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Latino.
Wright’s death prompted protests in other U.S. cities, including in Portland, Oregon, where police said a demonstration turned into a riot Monday night, with some in the crowd throwing rocks and other projectiles at officers.