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Grief, Outrage Follow Another Police Killing Of A Black Man

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Protest over a police shooting in Brooklyn Center, Minn., has spread far beyond the confines of that Minneapolis suburb.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Protesters defied curfews in four counties last night. One large group gathered outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department. The police chief has called the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright an accident. Yesterday, the chief played body camera footage of the traffic stop that led to his death. The woman who shot and killed him is a 26-year veteran of the police force.

INSKEEP: NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Minneapolis with the latest. Leila, good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Based on what we know now, what happened in what order?

FADEL: Well, Daunte Wright was pulled over for expired tags on his car. Police found an arrest warrant related to misdemeanor charges. Body camera footage showed two police officers standing at each side of his car. One officer asks him to get out of the car and begins handcuffing him. Then a third police officer walks up. Wright tries to get back in the car. The third officer pulls her gun. And then we hear this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM POTTER: Taser, Taser, Taser. [Expletive]. I just shot him.

FADEL: She shoots Wright. The car lunges forward, with Wright in the car still and his girlfriend as well. And as you mentioned, the Brooklyn Center police chief, Tim Gannon, said he believed Wright's shooting was an accidental discharge. He also said no gun was found in the car. Wright's death was ruled a homicide by the Hennepin County medical examiner, and the cause, a gunshot wound to the chest.

INSKEEP: It was a little hard to hear that video, so I just want to say out loud - you hear the officer say Taser, Taser, Taser. But then, obviously, a Taser was not the weapon in her hand. Now, who was the officer with that weapon in her hand?

FADEL: She was identified by authorities as Kim Potter. She's been at the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years, so she's senior, not a rookie. And she's on administrative leave as Wright's killing is investigated. And I should note, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, made it clear he believes she should be fired.

INSKEEP: The protests in four different counties - what's the situation now?

FADEL: Well, this morning there's calm after a night of police clashing with a group of protesters outside the Brooklyn Center police station. Law enforcement leaders say they arrested 40 people there. Looting across the Twin Cities was described as limited, sporadic - protests largely peaceful. And since Wright's killing, there's been this palpable sense of anger and grief. On the corner where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed on Sunday, his mother, Katie Wright, stood and wept. She was surrounded by hundreds in a vigil for her son, the father of a 2-year-old child. Then she spoke of her son's smile. She described it as angelic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATIE WRIGHT: And I just need everyone to know that he was my life. He was my son, and I can never get that back because of a mistake - because of an accident?

INSKEEP: Leila, some people will know that you're already in Minneapolis because you have been covering the trial about another police killing, the killing of George Floyd. What happens in that case today?

FADEL: Today the defense is expected to begin their case after the prosecution rests. So residents of the Greater Twin Cities are thinking about two police-involved killings of Black men less than a year apart, as the man accused of murdering Floyd is back in court again today. And that's not lost on Alicia D. Smith. I met her at that vigil last night. She has a 7-year-old son, a 12-year-old son, and she worries about the day they're seen as a threat because they're Black.

ALICIA D SMITH: Black people can't take anymore. We can't bear the responsibility of the change of the system that must occur for us to be acknowledged and be able to exist as humans.

FADEL: Steve, at that vigil, just before curfew, there was this sense of heaviness, a feeling of desperation, anger, and then people broke off, some to go home and others to protest.

INSKEEP: Leila, glad you're there to listen. Thanks so much.

FADEL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Leila Fadel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.