People march during a rally for Daunte Wright, who police allegedly shot and killed during a traffic stop Sunday at a suburb north of Minneapolis, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City Picture: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
People march during a rally for Daunte Wright, who police allegedly shot and killed during a traffic stop Sunday at a suburb north of Minneapolis, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City Picture: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Officer who shot Daunte Wright resigns

By The Washington Post Time of article published Apr 13, 2021

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BROOKLYN - Two days after a northern Minneapolis suburb became the latest backdrop to an unarmed Black man's fatal shooting by police, the city's police chief and the officer involved in the shooting resigned.

Brooklyn Centre became a flash point on Sunday after Daunte Wright, 20, was shot during a traffic stop by a longtime officer, Kim Potter.

Body-camera footage released Monday showed that Potter, 48, apparently meant to fire her Taser but accidentally pulled her service weapon instead.

Potter abruptly resigned on Tuesday, writing in a brief letter to city officials her immediate departure was "in the best interest of the community."

Moments later during a news conference at City Hall, Mayor Mike Elliott announced that Police Chief Tim Gannon had also resigned.

Gannon will be replaced by Commander Tony Gruenig, a senior commander in the department, Elliott said.

The shooting has heightened tensions in an area already on edge. Ten miles down Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin - arguably the biggest police trial in state history - is underway.

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama underscored that reality in a statement on Wright's death Tuesday.

"Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police," the couple wrote in a statement released through the Obama Foundation. The fact it could happen during the Chauvin trial as Minneapolis relives George Floyd's death "indicates not just how important it is to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but also just how badly we need to re-imagine policing and public safety in this country."

Brooklyn Center officials and state officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, D, addressed the grief and anger in the community in news conferences Monday. Walz issued a 7pm curfew that spanned four counties as leaders tried to acknowledge the emotion in the community while discouraging unrest. The results were mixed late Monday.

At one of the vigils scheduled to end before the curfew, hundreds joined Wright's family near the intersection where he was shot as a trumpeter played "Lift Every Voice and Sing." A minister introduced Wright's mother, Katie Wright, who told attendees, "My heart is literally broken into a thousand pieces, and I don't know what to do or what to say."

At the Brooklyn Centre Police Department, a protest organized by community groups ended an hour before the curfew, but hundreds of people, most of them in their 20s or younger, continued to stream. An officer issued a dispersal order over a bullhorn when the 7 p.m. curfew took effect, but the crowd remained, chanting Wright's name and blaring songs from a nearby van.

More than an hour later, officers moved in to separate the protesters into two groups and block access to the police station. Several older protesters, including Black Panther members wearing bulletproof vests, tried to maintain calm and implored people not to throw anything at the police line.

At one point, someone threw a glass bottle at police, and it shattered at an officer's feet. Police responded with concussion rounds and tear gas.

At least 40 people were arrested Monday at the Brooklyn Centre protests, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said at a late-night news conference. Several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries from debris thrown at them; no injuries of protesters were reported, he said. Thirteen people were arrested in Minneapolis.

Elliott and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is helping to organize the prosecution in the Chauvin trial, were among the officials to meet with protesters outside the police station around 10:40 p.m. Elliott, who earlier in the day said he supported Potter's removal from the police department, told the protesters that he supports them but pleaded for patience.

"I know y'all are angry; I'm angry, too. I've seen this too many times," Elliott said. "But the reason I'm here tonight with y'all is to tell y'all we're going to get to the bottom of this. This officer is going to be held accountable."

He vowed to do everything in his power to ensure that "justice is done" and that nothing gets "swept under the rug."

Elliott unexpectedly gained more power to make good on his word Monday when the Brooklyn Center City Council fired the city manager and turned control of the police department over to the mayor's office. The council's move to grant Elliott "command authority" over the department may give him the power to terminate the police chief, legal experts previously told The Washington Post. In announcing Gannon's resignation Tuesday, Elliott said he did not ask the chief to depart.

Earlier on Monday, Elliott publicly split with since-terminated City Manager Curt Boganey and Gannon over whether Potter should be fired.

"All employees working for the city of Brooklyn Center are entitled to due process with respect to discipline," Boganey said. "This employee will receive due process, and that's really all I can say today."

Elliott had said the officer should be dismissed.

"Let me be very clear: My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession," he said at a news conference. "So I do fully support relieving the officer of her duties."

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