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Fifth Officer to Arrive on Scene Testifies Crowd Seemed "Aggressive"; Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Resigns; Brooklyn Center Mayor Holds Press Conference; Brooklyn Center Police Chief Resigns, New Leadership Announced; Mother of Daunte Wright Speaks of Last Phone Call with Son. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 13, 2021 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:30:00]

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: One of the witnesses that was called by the defense today was a park police officer who showed up on that day to assist.

We got new vantage point of this officer's body camera. And he talked about what he thought about the crowd that was around that police car.

Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFC. PETER CHANG, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: There was a crowd. And I guess the crowd was becoming more loud and aggressive. A lot of yelling across the street.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Did that cause you any concern?

CHANG: Concerns for officers' safety, yes.

NELSON: Did you go over to try to help them?

CHANG: No, because my job was to watch the car and the two individuals by the car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMPBELL: Again, trying to get to that notion that perhaps Chauvin, as he was there on top of George Floyd, may have been distract or felt threatened by this crowd.

Of course, there are other vantage points of this -- the bystander video that we've been seeing where you don't see the officers look like they're in any imminent danger.

And we know from the testimony of different witnesses they didn't call for additional backup on that day. So really kind of refuting this notion that perhaps it was due to

distraction that that was the reason why Chauvin was on George Floyd for so long.

We're expecting additional witnesses from the defense side. Nowhere near the number of witnesses we saw from the prosecution.

The judge in this case, Ana, saying we could possibly expect closing arguments in this case to start just this Monday, very quickly.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Josh Campbell, you've been doing excellent reporting. Thank you for joining us.

Joining us now is former federal prosecutor and CNN senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, and CNN law enforcement analyst and former Philadelphia police commissioner, Charles Ramsey.

Laura, if the first witness the defense called today was an officer who arrested Floyd in 2019. Now, the defense has argued that this demonstrates a common plan, a habit, an intent of Floyd, taking drugs during an arrest.

Why do you think he was first? And does it help their case?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They're attempting to put George Floyd on trial, and somehow but for George Floyd's own behavior, he would be alive today.

The overwhelming testimony we've seen, throughout the course of the last two weeks, Ana, has shown a very different story.

And the idea of the, but for George Floyd, trying to villainize him, it's not successful when you think of all of the weighted evidence here.

Because as these witnesses have pointed out, the only difference between that arrest back in 2019 and what transpired in 2020, when officers in both scenarios initially had guns drawn but they decided to put them away, George Floyd was compliant, and he survived the 2019 encounter.

What's the distinction? Derek Chauvin, the defendant in this case.

It's kind of confounding to try to juxtapose those two together if you're the defense.

Any sort of points you think you've scored has really been overshadowed by the apparent statement of Derek Chauvin. This time, did apply deadly force for a sustained, unreasonable amount of time.

But essentially, unless we know differently, caused the death of George Floyd. Why raise this issue if you're the defense?

CABRERA: Laura and Commissioner, please stand by with me.

We've just got some breaking news. And we've just confirmed Kim Potter, the officer who was identified as the person who shot and killed Daunte Wright, has just resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

I want to go live right to Brooklyn Center now. This is in Minnesota, a few miles away from the Chauvin trial.

And this is CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joining us.

What have you learned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, so we just received the letter, the resignation letter that the officer, Kim Potter, the 26-year veteran of this department, sent to the mayor.

She said she is resigning. She doesn't really mention what happened to Daunte Wright.

But she does say she "loved every minute of being a police officer and serving the community."

And that she is resigning because "it is in the best interest of the community, the police department, and her fellow officers."

And so that is why she is resigning, she says. And then she signs the letter, "Officer Kim Potter." So that is it.

The big question has been: What was going to ultimately happen to this officer?

Many people wanted her to be fired after the police chief came out yesterday, so quickly, and said that this was an accident. A lot of people took issue with the way the chief described what happened here.

Now the big question is: What happens to the chief? City council members here want to see him fired as well.

We are waiting to hear from the mayor on what the next steps are going to be.

But certainly significant now that this officer has resigned from the department -- Ana?

CABRERA: Shimon, we are going to take that press conference when we hear from the mayor any moment.

But, first, let me go back to Commissioner Ramsey.

And again, I may have to cut you off, Commissioner. But first, a reaction as we wait for his press conference to begin.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I'm not surprised, to be honest with you, under the circumstances, twenty-six years, to retire after something like that, which I would think is probably more accurate than actually resigning. It's probably just retired.

[13:35:07] I'm not surprised. The first thing I thought when you broke in was that she may have committed suicide, to be honest with you. I hate to say that.

But that's common with police officers, especially, you know, with a lot of stress like that.

So I'm not surprised that it happened. I don't think it will do anything to, you know, relieve any of the tension that the community feels right now toward that police department.

CABRERA: Again, before we take the press conference, Laura, do you think it has an impact on the legal case?

Oh, stand by, I'm told he's starting. We'll come back to that after this.

MAYOR MICHAEL ELLIOTT (D-BROOKLYN CENTER): So obviously, it's been a -- an eventful several hours for our city. We are still experiencing trauma in our community from the events that unfolded, which led to the killing of Daunte Wright.

Yesterday, I was able to speak with Daunte Wright's father and express our condolences on behalf of the city.

I want to bring you all up to speed on a number of events that transpired yesterday, including events that transpired today.

That is our commitment, to continue to be open and transparent, and to continue to provide information on this evolving crisis.

Yesterday, the city council of Brooklyn Center met in session and took a series of actions to address the current crisis.

That included a vote in which the council voted to streamline the chain of command with the department.

And voted to -- according to our city -- in accordance with our city charter, have the command of the police department under the office of the mayor. That was the first action the council took.

The council then took action to relieve the city manager of his duties. As you all know, the city manager had responsibility and command over the police department until yesterday.

The city council also passed a resolution yesterday in support of relieving the police chief and the officer who was involved in the shooting.

As of this morning, we have the resignation -- we have received a resignation letter from Officer Kim Porter.

And in addition to that, we have also received a letter of resignation from the police chief.

All right, can you two come up? All right, so with the police chief's resignation, we're going to

appoint two of our senior commanders to play critical leadership roles in leading the department through this crisis.

[13:40:16]

Commander Tony Gruenig is going to be the acting chief. And Commander Garett Flesland is going to assist the chief with regards to handling this current crisis.

And so that is the update -- those are the updates we have for you at the moment.

If you have any questions, we're happy to stand for questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: First, can you have the acting chief say his name and spell it? And were they sworn in moments ago while we were waiting for this news conference to start?

ELLIOTT: Yes, go ahead.

TONY GRUENIG, ACTING CHIEF, BROOKLYN CENTER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Did you want me to?

ELLIOTT: Step to the microphone, please.

(CROSSTALK)

GRUENIG: I'm sorry, Mayor.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIOTT: Yes. Chief, go ahead, say your name, spell your name.

GRUENIG: Tony Gruenig, T-O-N-Y, G-R-U-E-N-I-G.

ELLIOTT: Thank you.

Do you want to spell your name as well?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You are now the (INAUDIBLE)

GRUENIG: Acting police chief, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And how long have you been with the department?

GRUENIG: Nineteen years.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's on your heart, stepping into this new role? (INAUDIBLE)

GRUENIG: I don't have any prepared statements. I'm just trying to step forward and fill a leadership role right now.

(CROSSTALK)

GRUENIG: I understand.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I don't like asking, how do you feel?

GRUENIG: Sure, yes. You know, it's very chaotic right now. I was just informed less than a half hour ago or an hour ago about the change in status.

There's just a lot of chaos going on right now. We're just trying to wrap our heads around the situation and try and create some calm.

That can kind of transition into we'd like some calm for the community, just some pause and community calming as we try and wrap our heads around the entire situation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mayor, I have a question for you.

ELLIOTT: Let me just say, the acting chief here has spent a lot of time working in the community, working with the community. He's someone who knows Brooklyn Center well.

Has probably, I would say, more than any other -- any other person in the department, has a very strong commitment to working directly with the community to help resolve issues.

He's done that throughout his career. That is why he is the right person to step forward and take on this role at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mayor, let me ask you, since Officer Potter was allowed to resign, is she allowed to keep her pension? And can she join another police department?

ELLIOTT: You know, I do not have the answer to that. I do not know that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Police protocol, might be a lay answer.

ELLIOTT: Are you prepared to speak to that?

GRUENIG: No, I can't.

ELLIOTT: OK.

GRUENIG: I don't know the situation and her benefits package.

ELLIOTT: So that's information we can get back to you on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mayor, how does this change the situation for the department now that the officer has formally resigned? How does that change things going forward for the department and the city?

ELLIOTT: You know, what I understand is that the officer stepping down has the effect, I think, of speaking to one of the things that the community -- that folks who have been out here protesting, have been calling for, and that is that the officers should be relieved of her duties.

And so, you know, I'm hoping that this would help bring some calm to the community.

Although, you know, I think ultimately people want justice. They want, you know, full accountability under the law. And so that's what we're going to continue to work for.

We have to -- you know, make sure that justice is served. Justice is done. Daunte Wright deserves that. His family deserves that.

And, you know, I'm appreciative of the officer, you know, stepping down and saying that, you know, she felt that was the right thing to do, right thing to do for the community. And, you know, I couldn't agree more.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the city ask her to resign?

ELLIOTT: We did not ask her to resign. That was a decision that she made.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When did she make this decision and did she get wind that you were planning to terminate her?

[13:45:03]

ELLIOTT: I do not know if she got wind of an impending termination or not. You know, she, you know, I believe, informed the city this morning at approximately 9:56 this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLIOTT: At 9:56 a.m. this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What kind of message are you hoping these personnel changes send to the community, especially specifically the police chief?

ELLIOTT: Well, certainly, I mean, you know, we -- we want to send a message to the community that we're taking this situation very seriously.

Although things did not unfold the way we thought ultimately they should unfold, we're hoping that we're turning over a new leaf now. I'm confident in that.

I think that, you know, we're going to develop an approach that is community-based, that is based on working with the very strong voices in our community.

People who are influencers in our community, in partnering directly with the police department, partnering directly with the leadership.

To try and, at the same time, provide people with the opportunity to speak up and deliver their grievances to government. But to do so in a way, you know, that their anger is channeled to protesting.

And we want -- we want the community to know that this leadership for the department here, these are two individuals who are, and the acting chief, in particular, they both are committed, committed to engaging the community, engaging people who are out here protesting.

And that's the message we want to send. We think that we can do both. We can keep the community safe and we can do that by working with the community and working with leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who is ultimately in charge now? Is it you? Is it the city council? Is it the acting city manager? There seems to be confusion about that.

ELLIOTT: There's no -- OK, let me clear that up. I am in charge ultimately. The city manager has day to day responsibilities over the department. And so that is the chain of command.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: Can I ask you --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: Do you guys plan on removing that blue thin- lined flag from in front of the police station? Any of you three can answer that question.

ELLIOTT: I'll answer that.

I have gotten a number of inquiries about the flag. I've gotten inquiries from the ACLU of Minnesota, requests to have that flag taken down because they see it and the community sees it as inflammatory.

And so with people coming to the department expressing their anger, in seeing the flag, you know, we don't want the flag to be a flash point that, you know, angers people.

And does that in a way that, you know, that, you know, that they're going to come to the department. And so we've asked the flag to be removed.

Has the flag been removed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure --

ELLIOTT: OK.

My understanding is that -- do you know? Do you know whether the blue flag --

GRUENIG: I'm not aware.

ELLIOTT: You're not aware? OK.

GRUENIG: First I've heard of it, I'm sorry.

ELLIOTT: OK. I do believe that the flag is no longer there. And what's there is the American flag.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One of the -- in addition to the killing of Daunte is the way police responded to peaceful protesters, tear gas and rubber bullets, now that you're in charge can you ensure us that we're not going to see any of that tonight?

ELLIOTT: This is a very, very difficult question to answer, quite honestly.

Our city council passed a resolution yesterday -- I forgot to say this earlier. And that resolution, I don't have the language in front of me right now. But that resolution spoke to what our officers are allowed to do and are not allowed to do.

Can you find that resolution for me, please?

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIOTT: I will -- I will --

[13:50:01]

UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: I just want to know one thing.

ELLIOTT: I will reference what the resolution says in terms of how our officers can behave.

One thing I want you all to know is that, prior to this situation, there was a regional central command set up related to the George -- I'm sorry -- the Derek Chauvin trial.

And that -- that operation has been mobilized to respond here in Brooklyn Center.

There are -- there's a regional command center that has command and jurisdiction over the state patrol, the joint law enforcement agencies that are acting in Brooklyn Center, including the state patrol, the National Guard, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department.

And so, they are giving orders to respond, using tear gas and rubber bullets. And we have not given those orders here in Brooklyn Center.

One -- thank you.

One thing I will say is, we are committed to not using those forms of -- and those tactics.

Let me just say what the language in the Brooklyn Center's city council resolution says.

And this is a resolution limiting police crowd control tactics during protests.

It says, you know, "Whereas the city of Brooklyn Center is -- Brooklyn Center experienced a tragic incident, which started a peaceful protest.

"And whereas locations can limit police tactics and brutality in response to protests to protect civilians and maintain their rights to protest.

"Whereas, given the violence police perpetuate" -- I'm sorry. Sorry.

Yes, "against protesters should even less -- it should be even less of a priority to issue curfew enforcements. And curfew enforcements can lead to an excuse for more arrests and violence."

So we want to be careful how we're instituting curfews against people who are protesting peacefully.

It's one thing when people are protesting peacefully. It is another -- let me just be clear -- if peaceful -- if people are not protesting peacefully and they're engaged in, you know, any kind of use of force against law enforcement, I just want to say that there are -- there's a difference there that we recognize.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIOTT: So, the -- so, the city of Brooklyn Center prohibits the use of --

CABRERA: I'm going to pull away from this press conference right now. That is the Brooklyn Center mayor, Michael Elliott, we've been listening to.

Making two big announcements at the top of this press conference, the resignation of the officer who was involved in the shooting, who shot and killed Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old black man who was stopped by police in what began as a traffic stop.

He also announced that the police chief of Brooklyn Center has also resigned today.

And he is now put two top commanders, senior commanders in that police force in charge of leading that department moving forward.

In the meantime, we are also hearing from the mother of Daunte Wright talking about the phone call she had with her son after he was pulled over by police.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE WRIGHT, MOTHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: I just want to talk a little about -- a little bit about the day that I got the phone call from my son two days ago at 1:47 was the worst day of my life.

He called and said he just got pulled over by the police. And then he said that -- I said, why did you get pulled over? He said, because I had air fresheners hanging in the rearview mirror. I said, take them down.

He said he also -- the police officers were asking about insurance. And I said, OK, when the police officer comes back to the window, put him on the phone and I can give him all our insurance information. A second goes by and I hear the police officer come back up to the

window and ask Daunte to get out of the car. Daunte asked, "For what?" The police officer said, because -- you know, I'll explain to you when you get out of the car.

He said, am I in trouble? He said, we'll explain all that when you step out of the car.

Daunte -- and then they asked him to put the phone down. Daunte put the phone down. I heard some shuffling. He got out of the car. And I could hear the police officers scuffling with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, sis.

WRIGHT: Then the police officer asked him to hang up the phone. They hung up the phone. Three or four seconds went by, I tried calling back-to-back to back because I didn't know what was going on.

[13:55:03]

And I never imagined this is what was going to happen. I just thought maybe he was being arrested.

And then when I called back, this girl that he had in the car, answered the phone, and it was a -- on a Facetime. And she said -- she was crying and screaming and she said that they shot him.

And she pointed the phone toward the driver's seat and my son was laying there, unresponsive.

(CROSSTALK)

WRIGHT: That was the last time that I seen my son. That's the last time I heard from my son, and I have had no explanation since then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're with you, Miss Katie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please continue.

Mr. Wright, do you have a word to say?

OK. OK.

Now we're going to hear from Chyna --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The mother, the mother of Daunte Wright, who just lost her son, who was on the phone with her son when this police encounter began only to learn that it ended the way it did. You can hear the anguish.

That was going on as we got this huge announcement from the mayor about the resignations of not only the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright but also the police chief of that department.

Laura Coates and Charles Ramsey are back with us now.

Commissioner Ramsey, Kim Potter, the police officer, resigned. The police chief resigned. The city manager has been relieved of his duties.

What do you make of all this?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, I can only imagine the amount of pressure that the chief was under, under the circumstances.

I'm not surprised that the officer resigned. But with 26 years -- and I don't know their pension package at all, but I would imagine she can retire and pull a pension.

The chief had to be under enormous pressure. So when the mayor said no one, you know, put pressure, I mean, no, you know that's not true.

But he stepped down. And that's the right thing to do under the circumstances.

CABRERA: Why do you think it was the right thing to do?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it relieves the pressure. I mean, you know, first of all, he probably didn't have much backing from the political leadership and also the community.

I mean, you want to try to calm things down, and sometimes you hate to say it, but sometimes that's what it takes. Although, I was surprised that he -- that he did resign.

CABRERA: Commissioner, speaking of calming things down, forgive me for interrupting, right now, there's an activist confronting the mayor as that press conference is still going on.

Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTIVIST: I'm tired of it! (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIOTT: Thank you.

So, as of -- I mean, as of this moment, I don't believe any officer, right, is from the city?

GRUENIG: I don't have the exact -- ELLIOTT: That's right. The last time --

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIOTT: The last night -- we have 49?

GRUENIG: Yes.

ELLIOTT: Yes. OK.

Yes, so, we have 49 sworn officers at the moment. Could be off by maybe one or two.

But, yes, as of this moment, I don't believe any one of our officers live in Brooklyn Center. That is something that we are aware of.

Up until this time, obviously, you know, we had different leadership over the police department.

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. I don't think that that would be feasible or practical.

But there should -- there's a huge importance to having a significant number of your officers living in the community where they serve.

Because I -- I think it helps the department. It helps inform the culture of the department. It helps to infuse knowledge of the community into policing.

And I think that can only help to enhance the work of the officers. And it can only help make their jobs better or easier.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mayor, is it too late for you to fire her anyway, as opposed to actually accepting her resignation?

Because I believe that the community calls for her to be fired. You yourself said that you wanted her to be fired.

And we are concerned that this is an easy way out where now she can go back to the POST board and get hired by another department when really she is unfit to be a police officer in the state of Minnesota or anywhere around the nation.

(CROSSTALK)

[14:00:01]

ELLIOTT: Well, I do appreciate that. I have not accepted her resignation.