Obama calls on U.S. to 'reimagine policing' after fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by Minnesota cop

  • Former President Barack Obama said that his and Michelle Obama's "hearts are heavy" over the fatal shooting by a Minnesota cop of Daunte Wright.
  • Obama argued that the latest death of a Black man at the hands of police underscores the need to "reimagine policing" in the United States.
  • Wright was killed about 14 miles away from where George Floyd died in Minneapolis last year at the hands of a city cop, Derek Chauvin, whose murder trial is ongoing.

Former President Barack Obama said that his and Michelle Obama's "hearts are heavy" over the fatal shooting by a Minnesota cop of Daunte Wright, and argued that the latest death of a Black man at the hands of police underscores the need to "reimagine policing" in the United States.

"Michelle and I grieve alongside the Wright family for their loss," Obama said in a statement.

"We empathize with the pain that Black mothers, fathers, and children are feeling after yet another senseless tragedy," said Obama, who became the first black U.S. president in 2009.

"And we will continue to work with all fair-minded Americans to confront historical inequities and bring about nationwide changes that are so long overdue."

Wright, 20, was shot to death by 26-year veteran Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Police Officer Kim Potter on Sunday afternoon as he tried to flee a traffic stop.

Wright, who had been stopped for having expired license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, was being arrested on outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court in a criminal case where he was charged with carrying a gun without a permit, and fleeing from police in June.

Police Chief Tim Gannon has said Potter' body-camera video of the incident indicates she apparently believed she was firing her Taser instead of her pistol at Wright after he twisted away and ducked into his car when another police officer was trying to handcuff him.

Wright was shot once in the chest after Potter repeatedly and frantically yelled "Taser!"

"It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet," Gannon told reporters Monday.

Potter, who has served as president of her town's police union, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The shooting was followed by protests and looting in Brooklyn Center and nearby Minneapolis.

The site of Wright's shooting is about 14 miles away from the site where George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, last year, after Floyd was detained on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill.

Prosecutors on Tuesday morning rested their case in Chauvin's ongoing murder trial.

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Floyd's death ignited a national wave of protests and calls for police reform.

Obama noted the coincidence of Wright's death and Chauvin's trial in his statement, which called Floyd's death a "murder" despite no jury verdict being reached yet in the case.

"The fact that this could happen even as the city of Minneapolis is going through the trial of Derek Chauvin and reliving the heart-wrenching murder of George Floyd indicates not just how important it is to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but also just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country," Obama said.

The families of both Floyd and Wright, along with their civil rights attorney Ben Crump, are scheduled to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. ET in Minneapolis Tuesday.

Crump said in a statement: "Daunte Wright is yet another young Black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us — not just the whitest among us."

"As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father. This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane," Crump said.

Police in Minneapolis said they made about 40 arrests on Monday night for conduct ranging from curfew violations to rioting.

Looting in the city was sporadic and limited to five retail locations, cops said.

Booker Hodges, the assistant commissioners for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, told reporters, "We just want to say thank you for all the people that came out and exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner."

"Unfortunately, there were those that decided not to do that. And the plans that we have put in place over the last few months were executed," he said. "For months we've been saying that riotous behavior is just not going to be tolerated and unfortunately tonight, that is some of the things that we encounter."

President Joe Biden said Monday that he had not spoken with Wright's family, "but my prayers are with the family."

"It's really a tragic thing that happened," Biden said. "But I think we gotta wait and see what the investigation shows – and the entire investigation. You've all watched, I assume, as I did, the film, which is … fairly graphic. The question is, was it an accident, was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation."

Biden added, "I want to make it clear again, there is absolutely no justification, none, for looting, no justification for violence."

"Peaceful protests, understandable, and the fact is that, you know, we do know that the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it's serious, and it's consequential," the president said. "But it will not justify violence and or looting."

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