US police officer who killed Daunte Wright may have meant to use taser

US Wrap: Minneapolis braced for more unrest as Derek Chauvin trial continues nearby

The fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb appeared to be an "accidental discharge" by an officer who drew her gun during a struggle rather than her taser, the city's police chief has said. Video: Reuters

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Minneapolis was braced for fresh unrest following the police shooting of a 20-year-old black man on Sunday.

A female police officer has been put on administrative leave, after she shot and killed Daunte Wright, who was stopped by officers for a traffic violation. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon said he believed that the officer mistakenly fired her gun instead of a taser gun. Body cam footage from the incident shows Mr Wright being stopped by two police officers who approach each side of his car. As they try to handcuff Mr Wright outside the car he tries to re-enter the vehicle. A third police officer approaches him and shouts the word “taser” several times, apparently as a warning. After she shoots him, the unnamed police officer can be heard saying, “Holy s***, I shot him.”

Following the shooting Mr Wright drove for a short time, struck another vehicle, and was then found dead at the scene.

In the course of a tense press conference, during which he offered condolences to the dead man’s family, Mr Gannon said he believed the cause of death was “accidental discharge”.

Mr Wright was pulled over because of an expired licence place, Mr Gannon said. He was also questioned about an outstanding warrant.

The incident took place on Sunday afternoon in the residential suburb of Brooklyn Center, just north of Minneapolis.

It has renewed focus on the issue of police conduct at a time of heightened tensions in the city as former police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial for the murder last year of George Floyd.

Curfew

Protests took place in the city on Sunday night, and the mayor of Brooklyn Center imposed a curfew, as anger erupted over another police shooting of an African-American man. Looting and clashes with police also took place. The Minnesota National Guard was increasing its presence in the city on Monday, following the incident.

US president Joe Biden said he spoke to the governor of Minnesota and local officials and had watched the “fairly graphic” footage of the shooting. “The question is whether it was an accident or intentional? That remains to be determined,” he said.

He said that any protests should be peaceful, stating that there is “absolutely not justification for violence”.

“Peaceful protest is understandable. And the fact is that we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, serious, and consequential. But that does not justify violence,” he said.

Defence team

The latest police shooting occurred as the Chauvin trial continued on Monday, with the defence team expected to begin their arguments as early as Tuesday. As proceedings opened for the day, the defence requested that the jury be sequestered because of the Daunte Wright shooting on Sunday. An attorney for Mr Chauvin, Eric Nelson, argued that the jurors could be influenced in their decision by fear over the public reaction to whatever judgment they might make. But the judge dismissed this request. Judge Peter Cahill also denied the defence team’s request that a passenger in George Floyd’s car, who witnessed his arrest and the events that led up to Mr Chauvin pressing his knee on the victim’s neck for almost nine minutes, should be called to testify.

Among those who took to the stand on Monday were Mr Floyd’s brother, Philonise, who recalled in emotional terms the impact his older brother had had on his life.

Also on Monday, cardiologist Jonathan Rich said that Mr Floyd’s death was not caused by underlying heart conditions, one of the arguments of the defence team.

“Had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day,” Mr Rich said, referring to Mr Floyd’s detention by Mr Chauvin. “I think he would have gone home or wherever he was going to go had he not been subjected to the prone and positional restraint that he was.”