The Brooklyn Center police chief and the white cop who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday, after apparently mistaking her handgun for a Taser, have both resigned.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” officer Kim Potter said in a letter announcing her resignation to Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott and other city officials.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Elliott also announced that Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has resigned from the department. Tony Gruenig, a 19-year veteran, would step in as acting chief, he said.
“I don’t have any prepared statements, I’m just trying to step forward and fill a leadership role right now,” Gruenig said Tuesday. “It’s very chaotic right now, I was just informed less than a half-hour ago, or an hour ago about the whole change in status. There’s just a lot of chaos going on right now.” He said the department was just “trying to wrap our heads around the situation.”
Authorities say Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in the chest after pulling him over for expired car tabs.
After officers ran his name, they found an outstanding gross misdemeanor warrant and tried to take him into custody, police said. Body-cam footage of the encounter shows one officer yanking Wright from his car to handcuff him, but he then tries to go back inside—spurring a chaotic struggle that ends with Potter pulling out a gun and firing a single shot.
Potter can be heard yelling “Taser Taser!” before seemingly realizing she in fact used her firearm. “Holy shit, I shot him,” she is heard saying in the footage.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said his office is performing a “thorough yet expedited” review of the case. If criminal charges are warranted, his office said, they will be drafted on Tuesday or Wednesday.
In 2019, Potter—who was the police union president at the time—was the first cop to arrive on the scene of a police shooting that left a 21-year-old autistic man dead.
“Officer Potter instructed Officers Turner and Akers to exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body worn cameras, and to not talk to each other,” states a report issued by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. No charges were filed in that case.
The “accidental discharge” that led to Wright’s death also set off an immediate string of violent protests in Minneapolis amid tensions over the ongoing Derek Chauvin murder trial. For two nights, hundreds of residents took to the streets and clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and flashbangs that were reminiscent of last summer’s protests after George Floyd’s police death.
“It is unbelievable... that police would shoot and kill another unarmed Black man...during this pinnacle trial of Derek Chauvin,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Wright family, said in a Tuesday press conference alongside George Floyd’s family and other local leaders who all offered their support.
Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer on Tuesday said that 40 people were arrested overnight in connection with the Brooklyn Center protests while several law enforcement officers suffered minor injuries. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington on Monday said that the National Guard would remain “robust” in the city over the next “two or three days.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Wright’s family expressed their outrage over the 20-year-old’s death and slammed the police for describing it as an accident.
“Every pistol has a safety. She saw that she had to release that. That woman held that gun out in front of her for a long damn time,” Daunte Wright’s aunt, Naisha Wright, said. “My nephew’s blood is on y’all hands.”
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, emotionally described how she was on the phone with her son during the police stop. She said that her son had called her after being pulled over for an air freshener on his rear-view window. Moments later, his girlfriend called back to tell her that her son was dead.
“I never imagined this was what was going to happen... I have had no explanation since then,” Katie Wright said.
Wright’s killing has already shaken up the city’s local government. After Mayor Elliott said he believed Potter should be fired—echoing a demand made by local activists—Brooklyn Center City Manager Curt Boganey said the officer would be afforded “due process.”
Elliott later announced that Boganey had been “relieved of his duties” and that Deputy City Manager Reggie Edwards would be taking over.
On Tuesday, Elliott revealed that all 49 officers in the Brooklyn Center police force live outside the city. He said he supported Potter’s resignation.
“I’m appreciative of the officer stepping down and saying that she felt that was the right thing to do. [It’s the] right thing to do for the community, and I couldn’t agree more,” he said.