Minnesota girded Monday for heightened unrest spurred by the police shooting of Daunte Wright, a death described as a tragic accident that exacerbated tensions in a state already on edge over the trial in the death of George Floyd, and presaged fears of another summer of violence.
Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center, the Minneapolis suburb where the 20-year-old Mr. Wright was killed Sunday, said the “unfathomable” shooting death occurred at the worst possible moment given the national and international focus on the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“We are in pain right now, and we recognize that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Mr. Elliott said at a Monday press conference. “We recognize that this is happening at a time when our community, when all of America, indeed, all of the world is watching our community.”
Minnesota state and local officials presented a united front, decrying the death of Mr. Wright while warning that the rioting, looting and arson that ravaged the Minneapolis area last summer to the tune of $1 billion in damages — and resurfaced Sunday night after the shooting — would be met with an overwhelming show of force.
The Minnesota National Guard said it would expand from 500 to 1,000 troops as the state moved ahead of schedule to phase three of Operation Safety Net, a four-tier public safety plan for the Chauvin trial, which was not slated to begin until the start of jury deliberations.
“We have been preparing for this month now for quite some time,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. “The fact that we’re expediting the presence and moving into phase three just a bit faster, we need to do that. And it’s necessary for the peace of our city, and we also want to make sure we are protecting First Amendment rights as much as possible.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, warned that anyone who seeks to “exploit these tragedies for destruction or personal gain, you can rest assured that the largest police presence in Minnesota history and coordination will be prepared.”
“You will be arrested, you will be charged, and there will be consequences for those actions,” Mr. Walz said at an Operation Safety Net briefing. “It’s not debatable. You’re not making the case, you’re hurting the case, you’re undermining the grief, and you hear it from families time and time again.”
The governor, who announced a three-county curfew starting at 7 p.m., said “emotions and trauma are high in our state.”
“It goes without saying that it’s devastating and heartbreaking that we’re here once again to address the death of a young Black man in an interaction with police as the world is watching the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd,” Mr. Walz said.
The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case this week against Mr. Chauvin, 45, who is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, who was 46.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought Monday to sequester the jury over the publicity surrounding the police shooting of Mr. Wright. He argued that it threatens to inflame jurors, but Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill rejected the request.
The trial is being held about 10 miles from Brooklyn Center, a city of 30,000, where hundreds of rioters looted and trashed about 20 stores, including a Walmart and a CVS pharmacy; jumped on police cars; and threw rocks as they surrounded the police department.
At a Monday press conference, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as an “accidental discharge” after airing police body camera footage that showed officers confronting Mr. Wright after pulling over his white Buick for an expired registration tag.
Chief Gannon pointed out that a female officer, who has not been identified, yelled “Taser, Taser,” leading him to believe that she intended to use her Taser against Mr. Wright in a scuffle with police but accidentally drew her handgun instead.
“As I watched the video and listened to the officer’s commands, it’s my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Chief Gannon said. “This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
After pulling him from the vehicle, officers noted that an air freshener was hanging from the rearview mirror, which is prohibited. After running Mr. Wright’s information, they found he had an outstanding warrant on two misdemeanors. As officers sought to take him into custody, Mr. Wright suddenly jumped back into the car’s driver’s seat.
“It appeared to me from the video that the individual was trying to get back into his car to leave,” said Chief Gannon, adding that no firearm was found in the car.
After the shooting, the car drove off slowly before hitting another vehicle a few blocks away. Mr. Wright died at the scene, and a female passenger sustained injuries that were not considered to be life-threatening, police said.
Chief Gannon described the “Taser, Taser” warning shouted by the officer as “part of the officer’s training prior to deploying a Taser, which is a less-lethal device.”
“That is done to make her partners aware, as well as the subject, that a Taser deployment will be imminent. During this encounter, however, the officer drew their handgun instead of their Taser,” the chief said.
He said “we train with our handguns on our dominant side and our Taser on our weak side. So if you’re right-handed, you carry your firearm on your right side, and you carry your Taser on the left. This is done purposefully, and it’s trained.”
The chief said the officer, whose name was not disclosed, was placed on administrative leave, but Mr. Elliott said at the press conference that he would support firing her.
“My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes to lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” Mr. Elliott said. “I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”
City Manager Curt Boganey said immediately afterward that the officer would receive due process.
“All employees are entitled to due process,” Mr. Boganey said. “This employee will receive due process, and that’s really all that I can say today.”
Within hours, Mr. Elliott announced that the city manager had been fired.
In a Monday evening tweet, the mayor not only made public the dismissal of Mr. Boganey and the temporary elevation of the deputy city manager, but also announced that the City Council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department.
This “will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” he said in a post on Twitter.