The head of Minnesota's police association says Daunte Wright would still be alive had he not "set off" a deadly "chain of events" Sunday in Brooklyn Center.
Wright, 20, died during a traffic stop for what police say was for an expired license tabs violation. An officer was in the process of arresting him for an outstanding warrant when Wright pulled away and got back into his vehicle. That's when a 26-year veteran of the police department, Kim Potter, allegedly pulled her gun instead of her Taser and fired a fatal shot that struck Wright in the chest.
Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), said it all could've been avoided had Wright complied.
"You have to look at this situation as a chain of events. This is going to be an unpopular statement, but you know, Daunte Wright, if he would've just complied, he was told he was under arrest, they were arresting him on a warrant for weapons, he set off a chain of events that unfortunately led to his death," Peters said during an appearance on WCCO Radio Wednesday morning.
"I'm not excusing it, but what we're seeing policing in these days is that non-compliance by the public. Police officers are tasked with enforcing the law, enforcing the law that legislators create. And it's a very tough job right now. It's been a very tough job and this situation unfortunately also makes it more difficult."
The MPPOA is the state's largest association representing public safety officials in Minnesota and lobbies in the state Legislature against bills that would "harm" public safety professionals, the association's website says.
Potter resigned Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who a day earlier speculated that Potter never intended to fire her gun and that Wright's death was the result of an "accidental discharge."
The civil unrest that has followed comes at a time when police-community tensions are higher than ever in the Twin Cities, which is in the national spotlight for a growing number of deadly police incidents with Black men.
In 2016, Philando Castile did comply with an officer's commands when he was fatally shot in St. Anthony. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
In 2020, George Floyd died after begging for air and calling for his mother while his hands were cuffed behind his back and he was face down on the ground with officers holding him down. The trial for the lead officer in that incident, Derek Chauvin, is ongoing in Hennepin County District Court.
Wright's death has sparked three nights of civil unrest. Protesters by the hundreds have gathered around the Brooklyn Center Police Department each night, with numerous law enforcement agencies responding in riot gear and issuing dispersal orders for what they call unlawful gatherings.
Some people involved in the protests have thrown items at police, including bricks, rocks, canned goods and bottles, according to officials.
"These objects are dangerous and can hurt people. It's as simple as that. To throw objects with the intention of hurting someone, whether a police officer or not, is unacceptable and it needs to stop," said Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer.
Criticism of Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott
Peters, who was previously a commander with the Brooklyn Center Police Department, also criticized Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott during the radio interview.
"This is over his head. He fired Tim Gannon, a chief of police who led with integrity, always trying to do the right thing," Peters said, calling Gannon and former City Manager Curt Bogany, who was fired Monday, "political pawns."
"If I were the mayor I would not allow the political activists to run the show," Peters continued, accusing Mayor Elliott of allowing community activists to attend the press conference Monday in which body-camera video from the Wright killing was released.
"If you watched that press conference, you can see that the community activists ran that press conference," said Peters.
"We have a lot of police officers across the state of Minnesota. The vast majority of police departments have that community trust," he added. "We are obviously having issues here in the metro, but to cast a dark shadow over the majority of police officers in this state, I think is unwarranted."
Peters began working at the Brooklyn Center Police Department in 1998, serving as a community service officer, patrol officer, sergeant and commander. He then worked for Target Corporations Global Crisis Management before leaving for his current position with the police association.