Police fire tear gas at protesters after officer fatally shoots man near Minneapolis

A man stomps the windshield of a police cruiser as people protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 11, 2021.
A man stomps the windshield of a police cruiser as people protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 11, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

BROOKLYN CENTRE/WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - Police fired tear gas on Sunday (April 11) to disperse angry protesters after an officer fatally shot a man about 16 km from where Mr George Floyd died during his arrest last May in Minneapolis, a Reuters witness said.

About 100 people, some visibly upset and one carrying a sign declaring "Justice for George Floyd", confronted police in riot gear after an officer shot a man in his car in Brooklyn Centre, a Minneapolis suburb.

Some vandalised two police vehicles, pelting them with stones and jumping on them. Police fired rubber bullets, hitting at least two in the crowd, with at least one man left bleeding from the head, a Reuters witness said.

After nightfall, a few hundred protesters had gathered outside the suburban police department, guarded by hundreds of officers in riot gear. Police set off flash bangs and sprayed chemical irritants at the crowd. 

Anoter pocket of protesters broke into about twenty businesses at a regional shopping center, with some businesses looted, according to the police and local media reports.

The man killed by police was identified by relatives and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz as Daunte Wright, 20.

Mr Walz said in a statement that he was monitoring the unrest in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, as “our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

In a news release, the Brooklyn Centre Police Department said officers pulled over the driver for a traffic violation just before 2pm, and ascertained he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

As police tried to arrest him, he re-entered the vehicle.

One officer shot the driver, they said. The driver drove several blocks before striking another vehicle to die at the scene.

Police say both the officers' body cameras were activated during the incident.

A curfew was imposed in Brooklyn Center until 6 am Monday (11 GMT), Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe. Please be safe and please go home,” he said in a tweet addressed to protestors.

Mr Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told reporters at the scene that she had received a call from her son on Sunday afternoon telling her that police had pulled him over for having air fresheners dangling from his rear-view mirror, illegal in Minnesota. She could hear police tell her son to get out the vehicle, she said.

“I heard scuffling, and I heard police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run,’” she said through tears. The call ended.

Tensions in the Minneapolis area are extremely high as the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer captured on video kneeling for nine minutes on the neck of Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, enters its third week on Monday.

Mr Floyd's death led to US and global protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Sunday’s shooting was tragic, said Brooklyn Centre Mayor Mike Elliott. 

"We are asking the protesters to continue to be peaceful and that peaceful protesters are not dealt with with force," he said in a statement. 

Separately in Virginia, footage emerged of two police officers detaining a Black army officer at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him in the face.

Lieutenant Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, repeatedly asked what he had done wrong and said, "this is really messed up", as the officers holding guns demanded he get out of his car.

The police accused him of not cooperating.

Lt Nazario, wearing his military uniform, was driving a newly bought SUV when the officers ordered him to pull over because he did not have permanent licence plates, news reports said.

Virginia governor Ralph Northam said he had instructed police to conduct an independent investigation into the incident, which he said was "disturbing and angered me".


People gather after a police officer shot and killed a man in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 11, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

The Washington Post said that Lt Nazario, a health administration officer with the Virginia National Guard, was driving home on Dec 5 when he was pulled over.

Footage from the officers' bodycams and Lt Nazario's phone spread rapidly over the weekend after Lt Nazario filed a lawsuit on April 2 seeking US$1 million (S$1.3 million) in damages.

He was released without charge after the incident.

The lawsuit reportedly said that police threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the officers' conduct.

"We must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable," Governor Northam said.