The police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African-American man on Sunday, resigned on Tuesday, as tensions over the police shooting intensified in Minneapolis.
Kimberley Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, announced her resignation, along with Tim Gannon, the area’s police chief. Mr Gannon told reporters on Monday that he believed Ms Potter had mistakenly used her gun instead of a taser when she shot and fatally wounded Mr Wright on Sunday afternoon.
The father-of-one was pulled over for driving with expired licence plates, and was then questioned about an outstanding court warrant. After he tried to re-enter his car, he was shot by Ms Potter. He drove for a number of blocks, crashed into another vehicle and was found dead at the scene.
In a letter released to local media and civic leaders, Ms Potter said she was tendering her resignation immediately.
“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 in the best interest of the community, the department, and to my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” she said.
Mr Wright’s death has been ruled a homicide by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, and an investigation is underway.
The newly appointed police chief Tony Gruenig said he intended to work with the community as tensions flare over the latest police shooting in the city.
“It’s very chaotic right now,” said the 19-year veteran of the police force. “We’re just trying to wrap our heads around the situation and try and create some calm.”
Mr Wright’s mother, Karen, spoke in emotional terms about her son’s death outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on Tuesday. Describing how he phoned her when he was pulled over by the police on Sunday, she said that was the last time she had heard from her son. “I have had no explanation since then.”
The Wright family is being represented by attorney Ben Crump, the same lawyer representing the family of George Floyd, who died last May in the city. Members of Mr Floyd’s family comforted Mr Wright’s family, including his two-year-old son, outside the court on Tuesday.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Mr Wright’s father, Aubrey, said he did not accept the explanation that Ms Potter accidentally shot his son with her gun instead of a taser.
“I cannot accept that. I lost my son. He’s never coming back,” he said. “I can’t accept that... mistake. That doesn’t even sound right. You know, this officer has been on the force for 26-plus years. I can’t accept that.”
In Washington, US vice-president Kamala Harris addressed the latest police shooting to take place in America.
“He should be alive today,” she said of Mr Wright. “To his family and loved ones you must know that the president and I... stand with you. Our nation needs justice and healing, and law enforcement must be held to the highest standards of accountability. At the same time, we know that folks will keep dying if we don’t fully address racial injustice and inequities in our country.”
The fallout from Mr Wright’s killing took place as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, continued for a 12th day in Minneapolis.
The defence team opened its case on Tuesday, calling witnesses to the stand as lawyers for Mr Chauvin seek to prove that the police officer was not responsible for the 46-year-old African-American man’s death.
Among the witnesses called was Scott Creighton, a former Minneapolis police officer. He testified that he stopped a vehicle in which Mr Floyd was a passenger in 2019 and that Mr Floyd was unco-operative. Video was shown of the incident. Separately, a paramedic who treated Mr Floyd that same year testified that he had told her he had taken opioid pills and that his blood pressure was extremely high.
Also on the witness stand was Barry Brodd, a use-of-force expert, and 30-year police veteran. He said that Mr Chauvin was “justified” in his arrest of Mr Floyd. “I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, and was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis police department policy and current standards of law enforcement, in his interactions with Mr Floyd,” he said. He also said that he believed the victim was able to breathe when he said “I can’t breathe”, as that indicated he could talk.
Mr Brodd previously appeared as a witness in another high-profile police violence case when he testified on behalf of Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald multiple times. Mr Brodd testified in the 2014 trial that the police officer’s use of force was justified. Ultimately, however, Mr Van Dyke was convicted of murder.
The death of Mr Floyd last year while he was being detained by police sparked global protests about racial injustice. The defendant, Derek Chauvin, was filmed by a passerby pressing his knee on the victim’s neck for almost nine minutes as he stopped breathing.
Mr Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He denies the charges against him.