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Protesters Gather In Minneapolis Suburb After Man Is Killed In Traffic Stop

NOEL KING, HOST:

Police used tear gas on protesters last night in Brooklyn Center, Minn. People in this suburb of Minneapolis were protesting the death of a young man named Daunte Wright. He died after a traffic stop by police. And there's still a lot we don't know about what happened at this point. Our colleague from Minnesota Public Radio Tim Nelson was in Brooklyn Center last night, and he's here to tell us what we do know.

Hey, Tim.

TIM NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: What do we know about the death of Daunte Wright?

NELSON: Well, let me give you a little background here. Brooklyn Center is a suburb just north of Minneapolis. It's an inner-ring suburb and one of the most diverse suburbs in the Twin Cities. Now, police said they stopped a motorist there about 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon for a traffic violation. We don't really know what it was, but the driver turned out to have an outstanding arrest warrant. Now, officers tried to arrest him. And the department said the driver instead got back in the car, and an officer fired.

Now, after the gunfire, the car drove several more blocks, then hit another vehicle, injuring a young woman who was a passenger in the car. The driver died at the scene. Although, you know, this is both a shooting and a car crash at this point, so we don't have a definitive cause of death yet. But as it happened, the driver apparently had been on the phone with his mother during part of this incident. She identified him as 20-year-old Daunte Wright and said she'd been talking with him about how to provide proof of insurance for the car for the police and called back to hear from his girlfriend that her son had been shot.

KING: OK, and then this prompted people to go out into the streets and protest. And what did you see there?

NELSON: Yeah, that's right. Several hundred people gathered a couple of blocks from the incident. They demanded justice, wanted prosecution of the officer involved. The crowd damaged some squad cars blocking the street. And Wright's mom actually came out and asked them to stop - said it wasn't helping the cause here. Police in riot gear arrived. The crowd got a little agitated. But they left, and the crowd decided to follow them and went back to the Brooklyn Center police headquarters, where the crowd closed in on the building. They were throwing some objects. Police came out in force and ordered them to leave. And a few minutes later, it sounded like this as police shot flash-bang devices and deployed chemical munitions.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

NELSON: And it kind of grew from there - break-ins and looting many places in Minneapolis and St. Paul, including the Lake Street corridor that was heavily damaged by the rioting after the death of George Floyd.

KING: This notably is happening during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who's being tried for George Floyd's murder.

NELSON: Yeah, I mean, this is kind of the worst-case scenario here. The trial has brought unprecedented attention to police conduct and use of force, not just in Minneapolis but all over the country. You know, people watched the video of Floyd's death play over and over again last week in graphic detail. And it just - sensitivities to these issues is at what feels like an all-time high right now. We're going to be watching very carefully as testimony resumes today to see if attorneys or the judge try to address this incident, see if it makes any impression on the jury and whether attorneys or the judge feel a need to respond.

KING: Tim Nelson, a reporter with Minnesota Public Radio. Tim, thank you. And stay safe.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.