Minneapolis police were involved in the death of a suspect for the first time since the May 25 killing of George Floyd fueled Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said a fatal shooting took place Wednesday evening during a traffic stop involving a “felony suspect” less than a mile from where Floyd died.
“Initial witness statements indicate the suspect involved in this felony stop fired first,” Arradondo said. The officers “then exchanged gunfire with the suspect.”
The male suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were wounded and a female passenger was also not hurt, Arradondo said. He said bodycam video of the incident will be released Thursday.
The race of the victim was not immediately released. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation, he said.
Protesters gathered at the site in the hours after the shooting, and Arradondo said he had been reaching out to community and religious leaders.
“We want to do everything we can to protect everyone’s First Amendment rights, to freely assemble, demonstrate, but, I say again, we cannot allow for destructive criminal behavior. Our city has gone through too much.”
Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement saying he was working closely with Arradondo to gather all the facts in the shooting and promised that the information would be relayed to the community as quickly as possible.
“Events of this past year have marked some of the darkest days in our city,” Frey said. “We know a life has been cut short tonight and that trust between communities of color and law enforcement is fragile. Rebuilding that trust will depend on complete transparency.”
Floyd was a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.
The confrontation, caught on video, drew months of angry and sometimes violent protests demanding racial justice and police reform. “Defund police” became a recurring battle cry.
Police departments faced criticism over the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other means to control the protests, and police chiefs in major cities including Seattle, Atlanta, Portland and Louisville, Kentucky, were fired, resigned or abruptly retired.
Arradondo kept his job. But the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a budget this month that shifted $8 million from the police department toward violence prevention and other services.
A proposal to dismantle his department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention initially had support from a majority of the council but faltered when a separate city commission voted against putting it on the November ballot.
Chauvin faces second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter charges. Three officers who were also present when Floyd died in May – J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane – are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
All were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. They are scheduled to stand trial together in March in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
Contributing: Wyatte Grantham-Philips