US President Joe Biden. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LEIGH VOGEL
US President Joe Biden. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LEIGH VOGEL

Washington — President Joe Biden called for “peace and calm” and said he had been in touch with authorities in Minnesota after police shot and killed a 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop on Sunday.

Biden told reporters in the Oval Office he had spoken to governor Tim Walz of Minnesota and expected a “full-blown investigation” into the death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis. The shooting touched off a new round of violent protests over excessive force, with police reporting break-ins affecting about 20 businesses at a nearby shopping centre.

Brooklyn Centre police chief Tim Gannon said on Monday that body camera footage indicated an officer attempting to apprehend Wright on an outstanding warrant accidentally shot him with a gun instead of a Taser.

Wright’s killing came as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer charged in the killing last year of George Floyd, a black man, stands trial in nearby Minneapolis. Footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck prompted nationwide protests last summer, and Biden said that because of that case the federal government had already deployed resources to the area to deal with “anything that happens”.

“There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting. No justification for violence,” Biden said. “Peaceful protest? 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. But it will not justify violence.”

Biden said that despite those preparations, he hopes that the Chauvin trial would yield “an outcome that will be supported by the vast majority of people in the region”. He said he expected the investigation into Wright’s death would determine if the killing was accidental or intentional.

In a tweet on Monday evening, Biden wrote: “While we await a full investigation, we know what we need to do to move forward: rebuild trust and ensure accountability so no-one is above the law.”

Minnesota’s pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams postponed Monday home games because of the shooting.

Governor Tim Walz ordered a 7pm to 6am curfew for Brooklyn Centre and surrounding counties. “We will not allow anyone to exploit this tragedy,” Walz said. “If you try to use this tragedy to harm our communities, you will be arrested.”

Despite the curfew, protesters and police in riot gear clashed outside the Brooklyn Centre police station late on Monday night, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier on Monday, the White House said it was abandoning plans for a police oversight commission after determining it would be more effective to focus on passing legislation that would ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock home entry.

“We have been in close contact over the course of several months, back to the transition, with civil rights activists, law enforcement authorities and the law enforcement community about what would be most effective moving forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, adding legislation would enable “the necessary reforms that we would all like to see in place”.

Bloomberg

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