'Worst day of my life': As Daunte Wright's family grieves, police chief and officer resign in Brooklyn Center shooting

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb and the city's police chief resigned, the mayor announced Tuesday.

The death of the 20-year-old Black man has shaken a city already unsettled after George Floyd died about 10 miles away during a police arrest last May, an incident that led to nationwide protests calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.

Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday morning, Mayor Mike Elliott said in a news conference. He said the city did not ask her to resign but had been moving toward firing her.

“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 my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter wrote in the letter, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned Tuesday. Cmdr. Tony Gruenig, who has been with the department for 19 years, will take over as acting chief. City Manager Curt Boganey was fired.

"We want to send the message to the community that we're taking this situation very seriously," Elliott said.

Gruenig said he hoped to bring "some calm for the community" after protests rocked the area Monday night and resulted in about 40 arrests.

As snow started to fall lightly in the late afternoon, about 500 people marched in a peaceful protest from the police department building to the FBI office. By early evening, more than 200 demonstrators had gathered at the heavily guarded police headquarters as officers in riot gear and National Guard troops stood watch.

The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul imposed 10 p.m. curfews, as did Brooklyn Center.

A decision on whether prosecutors will charge Potter is expected as soon as Wednesday.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified Potter as the officer who shot Wright on Sunday. The Hennepin County medical examiner said Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest and ruled his death a homicide.

Gannon said he believed Potter mistook her firearm for her Taser when she shot Wright. The department released body camera footage of the incident during which Potter shouted "Taser" several times before firing, then expressed surprise upon realizing she had shot Wright.

Wright's family called for the officer to be held accountable in an emotional news conference with civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Tuesday.

"I hope that since she went ahead and she resigned that they hold her at the highest (accountability) because she was the law," said Wright's aunt, Naisha Wright.

Crump said he was stunned when he heard that another Black man had been killed at the hands of police not far from where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in Floyd's death.

"If you told me and I didn't see little Daunte's face and his mother and grandmother crying, I wouldn't believe it," Crump said alongside the Wright and Floyd families.

Crump said he thought that during the trial, "police would be on their best behavior, that they would exercise the greatest standard of care, that they would concentrate on de-escalation in a way they have never concentrated in America."

Katie Wright, Daunte's mother, called the day her son died "the worst day of my life." She described the phone call she received as he was pulled over and how, after he was shot, the woman in the passenger seat of the car video-called her – and she saw her son lifeless in the driver seat.

"I never imagined this was what was going to happen. I just thought that he was getting arrested," Wright said.

'He did not deserve this': Family remembers Daunte Wright as an adoring dad who enjoyed playing sports and celebrating the Fourth of July

Gannon said officers stopped Wright because of expired license plates, then tried to arrest him when they realized there was an outstanding warrant for him.

Court records show Wright was sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

Video from Potter's body camera shows an officer on the driver side of Wright's car beginning to handcuff Wright, who breaks free and reenters the car. A struggle ensues, and Potter shouts "Taser" three times before shooting Wright. She shouts, "Oh (expletive), I just shot him," and Wright drives away.

Wright's father told "Good Morning America" on Tuesday he could not accept police's explanation of what happened during the stop.

"I lost my son. He is never coming back. I can’t accept that. A mistake? That doesn’t even sound right," he said.

Potter involved in 2019 incident

Potter was identified late Monday by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state agency leading the investigation into Wright's death.

According to the Star Tribune, Potter became a police officer in 1995 and served on the department's negotiation team.

Potter was one of the first officers on the scene of a fatal police shooting in 2019, when officers shot an autistic man, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, who had allegedly grabbed a knife, the Star Tribune reported.

The newspaper, citing an investigative report from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, reported Potter told two officers involved in the shooting to "exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body worn cameras, and to not talk to each other."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement Monday the Washington County attorney would handle the Wright case. On Tuesday afternoon, Elliott tweeted that the case would likely be referred to the state Attorney General's Office.

Prosecutors in the area have an agreement to refer cases of police use of deadly force in their jurisdictions to nearby prosecutors or the state attorney general.

Community members mourn and pay their respects April 12, the day after Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Community members mourn and pay their respects April 12, the day after Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police in Brooklyn Center, Minn.

Wright's death sparked demonstrations Monday not only in Brooklyn Center but also in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Louisville, Kentucky.

On Tuesday evening, several dozen people marched through downtown, calling for justice for Wright and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a Chicago police officer at the end of March.

Contributing: Elinor Aspegren, Erik Newland, Dennis Wagner and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Daunte Wright shooting: Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter, chief resign