Brooklyn Center leaders were poised to fire the city’s police chief Monday evening, following the police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man Sunday afternoon that touched off a night of unrest in the city.
At an emergency afternoon meeting, the City Council voted to give authority over the police department to the mayor’s office and to fire City Manager Curt Boganey, who’d been with the city since 2005, Council Member Dan Ryan said during a virtual council workshop.
Police shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop about 2 p.m. Sunday in the area of 63rd Avenue and Orchard Avenue N. Wright then drove a few blocks from the scene before he crashed into an oncoming vehicle and died at the scene, according to police.
At a news conference Monday, Police Chief Tim Gannon said he believed the shooting was likely accidental — an officer meant to use a Taser but mistakenly used a gun instead, he said.
Wright’s death triggered confrontations with police and looting in the city of about 31,000, where most residents are people of color. Mayor Mike Elliott, who took office in 2019, is the first person of color to serve as mayor.
“We recognize that this couldn’t have happened during a worse time,” Elliott said at a news conference Monday. “We are all collectively devastated and we have been for over a year now by the killing of George Floyd.”
At a virtual council workshop, Council Member Kris Lawrence-Anderson said she voted to remove the city manager because she feared for her property and retalitaiton by protestors if she had voted to keep him.
“He was doing a great job. I respect him dearly,” she said. “I didn’t want repercussions at a personal level.”
In remarks Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden called Wright’s death “tragic” and urged “peace and calm.”
“There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting,” Biden said. “No justification for violence.”
Residents, curious onlookers and business owners emerged early Monday to begin cleaning up and to see for themselves the damage left behind from the night before. Officers in riot gear stood sentinel at the police station on Humboldt Avenue that was tagged with anti-police graffiti and where squad cars were damaged.
A quiet yet tense feeling enveloped the Hennepin County suburb Monday as law enforcement lifted an overnight curfew at 6 a.m. With fears that unrest could erupt again, Brooklyn Center Community Schools told students to stay home and do distance learning.
“We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process,” said Superintendent Carly Baker.
By noon, about 50 protesters had gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters, facing about an equal number of state troopers and National Guard troops in front of the building along N. Humboldt Av.
Dressed in full protective gear, the troopers stood silently as angry residents crossed the busy street to confront them. Some shouted and cursed, while others silently held signs demanding justice.
One man screamed angry curses as he thrust a photo of Wright within two feet of the officers’ faces.
Wright was briefly a student at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis and has a sibling who currently attends the school. Principal Yusuf Abdullah said the school is offering a range of support to the Wright family and all its students, faculty and staff, as well as the larger community.
“First and foremost, what we have learned in Minneapolis is not to get caught up in, was this a Henry student, was this an Edison student?” he said. “They are all our students.”
Abdullah said he has been in touch with Wright’s family to offer condolences and support.
A GoFundMe page that Wright’s aunt, Kelly Bryant, started to help cover funeral expenses surpassed its $15,000 goal Monday.
“Please donate to give Daunte the proper burial he deserves,” Bryant wrote in the posting. “If you can’t help please send lots of prayers for our family to get through this tragic loss thank you and God bless.”
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension continued to investigate the incident. Gannon on Monday released police body camera footage, saying the “community needed to know what happened.”
“I appreciate that body camera footage has been released so quickly,” said state Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center. “No matter what we learn as this situation develops, it is clear that our community is facing a traumatic experience that will cause a lot of pain. We must stand together as a community, and focus our energy on maintaining peace while seeking justice. My heart goes out to the victim and their family, this is a shocking tragedy that no family should have to experience.”
The National Guard had activated 500 personnel as of Monday morning to help keep the peace and has plans to increase that number in the coming days as closing arguments approach in the Chauvin trial, the organization said.
Some guard members blocked the entrance to the Shingle Creek Crossing shopping plaza in Brooklyn Center where social media posts showed looters ransacking stores and carrying off everything from printers to clothing.
Some stores in that plaza, the site of the former Brookdale Center, had also faced damage in late May from the civil unrest after the killing of Floyd that spilled out from Minneapolis to other areas.
To New York clothing store manager Andre Stevenson found everything gone — the only item of clothing left appeared to be a pair of jeans on a mannequin.
“I understand why people are frustrated, I do,” said Stevenson, who is Black. “But this isn’t going to solve anything, ultimately.”
At the nearby Walmart, flip-flops and bottles of fruity drinks littered the parking lot where a man who gave his name as Thomas was part of a small army of store employees picking up trash and debris.
“All of our large screen TV’s were taken,” he said.
The store will be closed until further notice for the safety of customers and employees, the company said in a statement.
“Serving the community remains a priority for us, and we will reopen as soon as its appropriate to do so,” Walmart said.
Alarms blared at a Verizon store across the way where the front window was broken and a TV was ripped off the wall. Looters had ransacked the Icon Beauty Salon and left boxes of fake eyelashes behind in the parking lot. At Aspen Dental, only the front door sustained damage, but the clinic canceled all Monday appointments.
“I expected it to be way worse,” said Sara Trout, an employee who was on the scene just before 7 a.m. even though she had received a text message telling her not to come to work.
Adam New, a 1999 Brooklyn Center High School graduate who does not live in the city anymore, took a city bus to his hometown Monday morning to check out the aftermath of Sunday night’s mayhem.
“They want to burn the place down,” New said as stood across the street from the police station. “I’m sick of it. This has to spark change.”
Scores of motorists with phones in hand took videos as they rolled by the station. Others, like Eric Cullen, of Bloomington, stopped by police headquarters to assess the situation and get a firsthand view rather than relying on media accounts of what happened.
“I’m a see-it-to-believe-it kind of guy,” he said.
Protesters had assembled near the scene by Sunday afternoon and had been relatively peaceful until nightfall. That is when they marched to police headquarter near N. 66th Avenue and N. Humboldt Avenue and were locked in a standoff with police in riot gear. Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd that had chanted Wright’s name and climbed atop the police headquarters sign.
Some damage to buildings was reported in south Minneapolis and in neighboring Brooklyn Park.
Sunday’s fresh outrage came as the Chauvin trial forces people in the Twin Cities and across the world to relive Floyd’s death and the chaos that followed, when waves of protests and violent demonstrations damaged hundreds of buildings.
At least 13 pharmacies around the Twin Cities were closed Monday following the night of civil unrest, according to Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. He said it’s unclear how many of them were looted, with at least two of them apparently closing as a precaution.
A Walgreens spokesman said eight of its Twin Cities area pharmacies were damaged and were closed on Monday as a result. Walgreens’ website showed that closed locations included those in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park as well as in Minneapolis on West Broadway, Central Avenue and Hennepin Avenue. The spokesman said the company is still assessing the damage and will reopen them as quickly as possible. CVS also had four stores close due to damage.
Target stores on Lake Street and in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis were broken into Sunday night, but were open for business Monday, according to a company spokesman. The Uptown Lunds and Byerlys did not suffer any damage, but boarded up all of its windows Monday morning out of caution, a company spokesman said.
National Guard members and armored vehicles could be seen patrolling the area around Lake and Hennepin Avenues.
Law enforcement has already been bracing for unrest once the jury reaches a verdict, erecting barricades and marshaling an intense police presence at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, where the trial resumed Monday.
The incident also comes as Brooklyn Center moves ahead with hiring a leader for its new Office of Anti-Racist Practices and Policies, which will review city policies and recommend changes. Before his termination was announced, Boganey had said Monday that he hoped to fill the position within a few months. The city also will continue with its anti-racism training for staff and City Council members.
Tangible scenes of Sunday’s event remained visible on Monday. Crime scene tape remained in yards near where the shooting happened. At the shopping complex, broken glass covered sidewalks and business owners surveyed the damage.
“Oh, they hit the Dominos and the Wing Stop,” Trout lamented. The manager of the pizza joint “is the nicest guy.”
The dental clinic where she works was largely spared. Other than broken glass, “nothing was stolen,” Trout said. “I’m not sad that it happened.”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768
Staff Writers Liz Sawyer, John Reinan and Kavita Kumar contributed to this story