Civil unrest gripped a Minneapolis suburb for a second night on Monday after the city’s police chief said a fatal police shooting of a young Black man appeared to result from an officer mistakenly opening fire with her gun instead of a Taser during a traffic stop.
Hundreds of protesters braving a steady downpour and defying a curfew ordered by Governor Tim Walz clashed with police in riot gear as darkness fell outside police headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Many of the demonstrators had arrived from an outdoor vigil for family, friends and supporters of the slain motorist, Daunte Wright, 20, whose death on Sunday after being pulled over for an expired vehicle registration roiled a region already on edge.
Wright was killed just 10 miles from the courthouse where a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, has stood trial over the past two weeks on murder charges in the deadly arrest last May of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.
Floyd’s death, captured by an onlooker’s cellphone video showing his neck pinned under Chauvin’s knee, unleashed months of nationwide protests and civil strife over U.S. racial injustice and police violence amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During Monday’s memorial gathering at the spot where Wright was killed, relatives remembered him as a good-natured father who worked multiple jobs to support his 2-year-old son, and they rejected the notion that an accidental shooting was to blame for his death.
“My brother lost his life because they were trigger happy,” his older half-sibling, Dallas Wright, told the crowd as the rain began to fall.
“My heart is broken in a thousand pieces… I miss him so much, and it’s only been a day,” his mother, Katie Wright, said as she wept. “He was my life, he was my son and I can never get that back. Because of a mistake? Because of an accident?”
Sunday’s shooting immediately sparked a night of street skirmishes between police and protesters in Brooklyn Center. Local news media reported looting and burglaries of about 20 businesses at a nearby shopping centre.
On Monday, Walz ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the greater Twin Cities area around Minneapolis and St. Paul, but disturbances flared anew following the vigil as the curfew went into effect.
A crowd outside police headquarters surged against a makeshift fence erected to keep protesters at bay, some hurling bottles and other projectiles as police responded by firing volleys of tear gas and what appeared to be non-lethal plastic rounds.
Brooklyn Center mayor Mike Elliott said police had orders to disperse the crowd.
“I’m calling and asking for people to go home,” Mayor Mike Elliott said on CNN as the turmoil unfolded.