Officer who 'accidentally' shot and killed black man 'meant to use Taser'

13 April 2021, 06:02 | Updated: 14 April 2021, 05:08

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

An officer who "accidentally" fatally shot a black man in Minnesota intended on using a Taser, the police chief has said.

Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Centre on Sunday as "an accidental discharge".

The officer was later named as Kim Potter, who has worked for the city's police department for 26 years.

Mr Wright's death sparked two nights of protests and a curfew has been put in place.

Tensions in the area were already high due to the trial of Derek Chauvin, one of the police officers charged over George Floyd's death.

An investigation is being carried out by the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Police have clashed with protesters in demonstrations after Daunte Wright's death
Police have clashed with protesters in demonstrations after Daunte Wright's death. Picture: PA
A curfew has been put in place in the city where the shooting took place
A curfew has been put in place in the city where the shooting took place. Picture: PA

Mr Gannon said at a news conference that Ms Potter made a mistake and he released body-cam footage from the officer who fired.

The video showed three officers surrounding a stopped car and when one attempts to handcuff Mr Wright, a struggle ensues.

Ms Potter is heard shouting "Taser" several times before firing her weapon. She can then be heard saying, "Holy s***, I just shot him" as Mr Wright managed to drive off.

"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".

A police chief said the shooting of Daunte Wright was "accidental"
A police chief said the shooting of Daunte Wright was "accidental". Picture: PA

"We're going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole," he said.

Minnesota Governor 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".

Speaking prior to unrest in the city, 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."

Daunte Wright's mother, Katie, eulogises her son at his vigil
Daunte Wright's mother, Katie, eulogises her son at his vigil. Picture: PA

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.

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 added.