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Sunday’s Minnesota police shooting result of an ‘accidental discharge,’ police say. Here’s why it sparked protests

The officer who shot and killed Duane Wright thought she was firing a Taser, not a firearm, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday

Authorities respond to a scene in front of the Brooklyn Center Police station on Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Authorities respond to a scene in front of the Brooklyn Center Police station on Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Christian Monterrosa, Associated Press

Minnesota police officials say the death of 20-year-old Duane Wright, who was shot and killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer Sunday afternoon, was the result of an “accidental discharge.”

The officer who shot and killed Wright, a Black man, had intended to fire a Taser, not a firearm, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday, reported the Pioneer Press — a Saint Paul newspaper.

Sunday’s police shooting in the Minneapolis suburb happened two weeks into — and less than the 10 miles from — the murder trial of George Floyd, another Black man who died while in police custody.

What happened?

According to video of the shooting shown at a press conference Monday, a “female’s voice is heard yelling ‘Taser! Taser!’ as the video shows a handgun extended toward Wright,” the Pioneer Press reported.

“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” said the police chief of the Minneapolis suburb, according to the Pioneer Press. “This appears to me, from what I viewed in the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

  • The police shooting began as a traffic stop around 2 p.m. Sunday when officers pulled over a vehicle Wright was driving for expired tags, Minneapolis’ KMSP Fox 9 reported.
  • Wright called his mother, Katie Wright, as the police were pulling him over, The Associated Press reported. “All he did was have air fresheners in the car, and they told him to get out of the car,” the mother told the AP.
  • “Once police learned the driver, Wright, had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor, they tried to arrest him, but he got back into his vehicle. At that point, the officer fired her gun, hitting Wright, who then drove several blocks before crashing into another car,” according to Fox 9.
  • The warrant was issued because Wright had failed to appear in court after “he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June,” The Associated Press reported.
  • According to authorities, a woman who was also in the car was injured in the crash, and Wright’s mother told the AP the “passenger was her son’s girlfriend.”

The Chauvin trial goes on

“Protests, violence and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center” after the shooting, The New York Times reported, which was less than 10 miles from the courthouse where former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for allegedly murdering George Floyd, a Black man.

  • After Sunday’s shooting, around 20 businesses at Brooklyn Center mall were broken into and Minnesota State Patrol and National Guard soldiers were needed to disperse a crowd of protesters outside of Brooklyn Center Police Department, the Times reported.

Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, requested that jurors be questioned about what they’d heard about Sunday’s police shooting and immediately sequestered, National Public Radio reported Monday.

  • “Judge Peter Cahill denied the request to re-question jurors,” according to NPR, and “said the jury would be fully sequestered beginning next Monday when closing arguments are expected to start.”
  • “Cahill said that he chose not to sequester the jury at the trial’s start with the caveat that sequestering could happen if someone reached out to a juror and tried to influence them — but he noted Monday that this has not happened,” Axios reported.

Chauvin — who was fired and arrested after Floyd’s death — is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune.