One dead in police shooting in Brooklyn Center; tear gas deployed to clear protesters

Police in riot gear are seen through clouds of tear gas
Law enforcement officers in riot gear are seen through clouds of tear gas deployed outside the Police Department in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Sunday during a protest over the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright earlier in the day.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: April 12, 6:05 a.m. | Posted: April 11, 5:08 p.m.

Police deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades Sunday night to clear protesters who gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a 20-year-old man earlier in the day.

Some protesters calling for justice for Daunte Wright lobbed projectiles at officers in riot gear in front of the building, and a crowd of several hundred people remained at the scene after police deployed the munitions just before 10 p.m. Law enforcement ringing the building continued to sporadically fire munitions for more than an hour.

Wright, who was identified by family members, was stopped by police at around 2 p.m. as he was driving in a residential neighborhood. Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that officers discovered “an outstanding warrant” and tried to take him into custody, when he got back into his car. An officer shot Wright, who managed to drive off but crashed into another vehicle several blocks away. He was declared dead at the scene.

Brooklyn Center police said in a news release its officers wear body cameras, and that the department believes both body cameras and squad cameras were activated at the time of the shooting.

People began streaming to the scene, joined by Wright’s family, as tensions kept rising throughout the afternoon and evening.

At about 11:30 p.m., Brooklyn Center police declared the crowd an unlawful assembly and said anyone who remained at the scene — including journalists — would be arrested. Minnesota National Guard personnel were seen in the area of the police station, on Humboldt Avenue north of Interstate 94.

At about the same time, an MPR News reporter witnessed stores being damaged and some looting underway at the Shingle Creek Crossing shopping center and nearby stores in Brooklyn Center. There also were police scanner reports of sporadic looting and property damage in Minneapolis in the early morning hours Monday, prompting a large law enforcement response.

A curfew in effect for the city expired at 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, the school districts in Brooklyn Center and neighboring Brooklyn Park said students there will be in distance learning Monday.

Speaking at a briefing early Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said more National Guard troops and state law enforcement personnel were headed into the Twin Cities and would be visible in the metro area this week, on top of personnel already in place for the ongoing Derek Chauvin trial.

"You will see a robust assortment of National Guard, state and local police departments working together over the next two or three days as we once again prepare for the trial, and also are prepared for any further civil unrest that may come from the Brooklyn Center officer-involved shooting,” he said.

Harrington said about 20 businesses had been damaged in the Shingle Creek retail area. He said he wasn’t able to comment on the police shooting, other than saying the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was handling the ongoing investigation.

In a statement posted on Twitter early Monday, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said the community is “filled with grief.”

“My heart goes out to Daunte's family. I recognize the pain that you're going through. We all here in Brooklyn Center recognize the pain that you're going through,” he said in a video message. “We are going to make sure that everything is done in our power to ensure that justice is done.”

Gov. Tim Walz tweeted late Sunday, saying was he “closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

Shooting happened during traffic stop

In the early evening hours, a few hundred people gathered at the corner of 63rd Avenue North and Lee Avenue, down the street from where the shooting happened just before 2 p.m.

People used megaphones, joined by the crowd, to call for justice for Daunte Wright.

His mother, Katie Wright, said that she heard her son had been stopped because there was an air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror. His father said the young man was on his way to get his car washed.

In a video posted on Twitter by KARE 11 reporter Chris Hrapsky, Katie Wright described hearing her son talk with police over the phone during the stop, and someone telling her son not to run. She also said after being disconnected, she managed to talk with Wright’s girlfriend who was passenger in the car. Katie Wright said the woman put the phone next to the driver’s seat so she could see her son, who appeared lifeless.

When an officer demanded the phone be shut off, Katie Wright said she called 911 to try to find out the couple’s location. The girlfriend, who has not been named, was taken to a hospital with what police called non-life-threatening injuries.

Speaking before the confrontation between protesters and law enforcement outside the police station, she asked for calm.

“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,” Katie Wright said to the crowd near the shooting scene. “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.”

"Say his name: Daunte Wright!" the crowd chanted, as a line of police in riot gear stretched across 63rd Avenue between the crowd and the shooting scene.

Police cleared the shooting scene just after 8 p.m., with the crowd following as squad cars departed heading west on 63rd Avenue. After police left, Daunte Wright’s family remained at the scene, joined in vigil by friends and neighbors.

Family and friends gather near shooting scene
Katie Wright (seated at center, in pink), mother of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, is surrounded by family and neighbors on Sunday evening in Brooklyn Center, near where Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police earlier in the day.
Evan Frost | MPR News

People later gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department about 2 miles away, with protesters blocking off Humboldt Avenue in front of the building. Police ordered the crowd to disperse and move to the other side of Humboldt Avenue, and declared an unlawful assembly before the munitions were fired.

Residents of apartment buildings across the street from the police station, including children, watched from windows as police deployed the crowd-dispersal munitions.

Protesters confront police near the scene of a fatal police shooting
Protesters confront police near the scene of a fatal police shooting on Sunday evening in Brooklyn Center.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

The shooting happened on the same afternoon that several community groups held a rally in St. Paul calling for justice for people killed in encounters with police.

And it happened on the eve of the third week of testimony in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for last May's killing of George Floyd.

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