Daunte Wright Shooting Rocks Minneapolis During Derek Chauvin Trial : Consider This from NPR There have been nightly protests in Brooklyn Center, Minn., following Sunday's killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, who was shot by former police officer Kim Potter.

Police officials have said Wright's death resulted from an "accidental discharge," saying Potter mistook her handgun for her Taser.

State Rep. Esther Agbaje tells NPR the city has been living in "a continuous state of trauma."

NPR's Adrian Florido has been covering the trial of former Minneapolis police Derek Chauvin, which is taking place just miles from where Wright was killed. Wednesday was the second day for the defense to call witnesses in Chauvin's trial.

In participating regions, you'll also hear from local journalists about what's happening in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.
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Minneapolis Lives In 'A State Of Continuous Trauma' After Another Police Killing

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Minneapolis Lives In 'A State Of Continuous Trauma' After Another Police Killing

Minneapolis Lives In 'A State Of Continuous Trauma' After Another Police Killing

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It was erected on Martin Luther King Day - a sheet metal sculpture replacing an earlier wooden one at the intersection of 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. That's where George Floyd was killed. The sculpture depicts a raised fist. This week, it was moved from downtown about half an hour's drive north to the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hands up. Don't shoot. Hands up. Don't shoot. Hands up. Don't shoot.

CHANG: Brooklyn Center, of course, is where another Black man, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, was killed by police, this time by an officer who apparently meant to use a Taser instead of a gun. Since then, the town's police station has been the site of nightly protests. The officer who shot Wright resigned and has now been arrested. She will be facing criminal charges. The Brooklyn Center police chief, Tim Gannon, resigned too but not before he was asked this question at a press conference on Monday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why is it that police officers in the United States keep killing young Black men or young Black women far, far, far higher rate than they do white?

TIM GANNON: I don't have an answer to that question.

CHANG: CONSIDER THIS - Minneapolis, in the midst of a trial over one police killing, is now grappling with another. We'll hear how the city is trying to cope and the latest from the trial of Derek Chauvin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: From NPR, I'm Ailsa Chang. It's Wednesday, April 14.

It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Of the nearly 50 police officers who work in the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Mayor Mike Elliott said on Tuesday that he didn't believe any actually lived in town.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MIKE ELLIOTT: That is something that we are aware of. Up until this time, obviously, you know, we had different leadership over the police department.

CHANG: By up until this time, the mayor meant literally that hour. This was the same press conference where he announced the resignation of the Brooklyn Center police chief.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ELLIOTT: We do feel very strongly that we need officers to be from the community. Obviously, not every officer can live in the city where they work, but there is a huge importance to having a significant number of your officers living in the community where they serve because...

CHANG: But we should say that the police officer who shot Daunte Wright was no stranger to Brooklyn Center. That officer, Kim Potter, had worked there for 26 years. She was a police union president, and she was actually training a new officer on Sunday when they pulled Daunte Wright over for an expired registration on his car.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Now, everybody's saying, oh, it was an accident and that she should be allowed to resign and that way, she gets to keep her pension, her benefits and so forth.

CHANG: Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the Wright family, spoke to NPR Wednesday morning. Later that afternoon, Potter was arrested. A county prosecutor announced she would be charged with second-degree manslaughter, which in Minnesota is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

CRUMP: We just can't believe that 10 miles from the courthouse where Derek Chauvin is on trial for killing George Floyd that you have a police officer exercise such little standard of care knowing the gravity of what's going on not only in Minnesota but all over America.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: We are living in a continuous state of trauma. That is what Minnesota state Representative Esther Agbaje told a local paper in Minneapolis this week. Agbaje is a Democrat who represents portions of north and downtown Minneapolis. We spoke on Wednesday about how the city is coping.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ESTHER AGBAJE: It's difficult. You know, we are coming, still, through a pandemic. We have - are dealing with the killing of George Floyd, which happened last May, as well as the ongoing trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. And then now, as of Sunday, we have another police officer killing a young man, Daunte Wright. So when you put that on top of each other without having the space and the ability to mourn, to grieve, to heal, it makes it very difficult to continue on as business as usual.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, the officer who shot Daunte Wright - her name is Kim Potter - she was arrested today, and she has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Do you think that that is the correct course of action here?

AGBAJE: I believe that that is actually the correct course of action. We need to begin to hold police officers accountable for when they kill Black men, when they kill Black people, when they kill people in general. This is not something that we can just easily wave away, to say that it is a mistake. But we as the community members - and I imagine that the family as well - really wants to see some accountability. And this is a form of accountability that we have in our system. So I believe that this is correct.

CHANG: Well, what about the recent departures from people at the top? The city manager who used to oversee the Brooklyn Center Police Department was fired, and the police chief there, Tim Gannon - who called the shooting an accident - he resigned yesterday. Do you think their departures will help address some of the problems with policing there?

AGBAJE: I hope so. I mean, as a resident of Minneapolis, we have a very different system than the city of Brooklyn Center. And so I think, you know, Brooklyn Center will have to decide for itself what makes sense for its community. But overall, I believe that the more that we can do to ensure and show that community members, that we are taking action and that we are taking action that reflects the needs of the communities, that is something that all of us should do across the state of Minnesota.

CHANG: I want to turn now to the trial of Derek Chauvin. The entire country obviously is following this trial. Tell me, beside Chauvin's guilt or innocence, what do you think is at stake in this trial?

AGBAJE: This trial is not the end-all be-all of what justice actually means, so I want people to remember that this is a trial to hold this officer accountable for the murder that he committed. But at the end of the day, you know, for us, I think justice really means making sure that we are investing in our communities, that our people have what they need to live successful and thriving lives and that we are not cut down in the prime of our lives just because of an interaction with a police officer.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: That was Minnesota state Representative Esther Agbaje.

Like you heard earlier, Brooklyn Center, where Daunte Wright was killed, is about 10 miles away from downtown Minneapolis, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is happening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE SCHLEICHER: Your Honor, the state of Minnesota rests.

PETER CAHILL: Thank you. Mr. Nelson, are you ready to proceed?

ERIC NELSON: I am, Your Honor.

CAHILL: Call your first witness.

CHANG: Tuesday morning, the prosecution rested its case and turned the floor over to the defense, which continued to call witnesses on Wednesday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you're about to give...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

CHANG: Jurors heard from a key witness for the defense - a forensic pathologist who offered an alternative explanation for George Floyd's death. NPR's Adrian Florido is in Minneapolis covering this trial and joins us now.

Hi, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So who was this witness and what did he say exactly?

FLORIDO: Well, his name is David Fowler. He is the former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland. And, you know, the prosecution has spent days and several expert witnesses presenting technical and medical evidence to show that Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by pressing his knee into his neck and asphyxiating him. But today, this defense witness said no.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID FOWLER: So in my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrhythmia due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease or - you can write that down multiple different ways - during his restraint and subdual by the police or restraint by the police.

CHANG: Wait, what does that mean exactly?

FLORIDO: Well, it means, in his opinion, that George Floyd had a heart attack, that his heart stopped because of pre-existing heart disease and that this all happened while he was being arrested. He said that contributing factors were Floyd's abnormally large heart, which was found in an autopsy, buildup in his coronary arteries, the fentanyl and methamphetamine that were found in Floyd's system and something new that we actually hadn't really heard the defense allude to before today, which is he suggested that Floyd could have suffocated from carbon monoxide poisoning because he was breathing in exhaust from the police car next to which he was being arrested.

CHANG: What do you think Fowler's testimony signaled about the defense's strategy going forward?

FLORIDO: Well, the defense spent all morning with Fowler, not turning him over for the cross-examination until after lunch. He spent more time on the stand than any witness during this three-week trial. It speaks to how critical it is for the defense to raise doubts about the prosecution's argument that Chauvin suffocated George Floyd. And unlike the prosecution, which has to prove its case, the defense only has to raise doubts in the minds of jurors. So listen to this exchange in which the defense attorney, Eric Nelson, tried to do that by asking Fowler about the absence of any injuries on George Floyd's neck.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NELSON: So in your opinion, the absence of such injury, how does that speak to the cause of death?

FOWLER: It speaks to the amount of force that was applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him.

FLORIDO: The implication was that if it wasn't in enough force to bruise him, it wasn't enough to kill him.

CHANG: Well, how did the prosecution handle this witness on cross-examination?

FLORIDO: So prosecutor Jerry Blackwell came out swinging, and I think it's fair to say, started dismantling Fowler's testimony point by point. Within the first couple of minutes, he got Fowler to admit he had not factored in the weight of Derek Chauvin's equipment when calculating how much pressure came onto Floyd's neck. On the suggestion of carbon monoxide poisoning, he got Fowler to admit he didn't even know if the police car was turned on. And on the claim that a heart arrhythmia killed Floyd, listen to this exchange.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERRY BLACKWELL: If a person dies as a result of low oxygen, that person's also going to die, ultimately, of a fatal arrhythmia, right?

FOWLER: Correct. Every one of us in this room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point.

BLACKWELL: Right. Because that's kind of how you go.

FOWLER: Yes.

FLORIDO: This kind of questioning went on and on on most of the points in Fowler's testimony. He's one of the most important and possibly last witnesses for the defense. The defense is expected to close its case possibly as soon as tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: That was NPR's Adrian Florido in Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Ailsa Chang.

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