Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon and Kimberly Potter, the police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop Sunday, both resigned Tuesday amid a seismic leadership shake-up in the north metro suburb.
Mayor Mike Elliott announced at a City Hall news conference that Gannon had stepped down as police chief, a position he took in 2015 after serving as an officer with the department for 22 years.
Potter, who fired the shot that killed Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, resigned earlier in the day, according to a statement from Law Enforcement Labor Services, the state's largest public safety labor union. One of just a handful of women on the force, Potter was with the department for 26 years.
The overhaul at City Hall also included the firing Monday of longtime City Manager Curt Boganey, who had responsibility and day-to-day command over the police department until the City Council gave that authority, at least temporarily, to the mayor's office. Elliott said Boganey had made strides in improving the city, but the council "determined it was in the best interest to seek new leadership in the city."
Cmdr. Tony Gruenig, who has been with the department 19 years, will serve as acting police chief. He will be assisted by Cmdr. Garett Flesland, another veteran officer. Together they will lead a staff of about 49 officers, of which "very few" are Black or people of color, Elliott said.
Gannon, a Marine Corps veteran, told a local cable TV news station when he was appointed chief that he wanted to reduce crime, create better connections between officers and the community and diversify the department.
In an interview, former Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson said Gannon knew and understood the community and worked with officers to determine if they were doing the right thing.
"When he was appointed chief, that was a good deal," Willson said. "He was a very good and dedicated police officer. I'm very sad to see him go."
Elliott had little to say about his former police chief at Tuesday's media event, but said Gruenig has a strong commitment to working with the community.
"He has done that throughout his career," Elliott said. "That is why he is the right person for the job."
Gruenig, who said at Tuesday's news conference that he'd learned of the staffing change within the previous hour, faces major challenges.
"It's very chaotic right now," he said. "We're just trying to wrap our heads around the situation and try to create some calm."
As protesters returned to police headquarters Tuesday night after tense encounters with law enforcement Sunday and Monday, officers were under new restraints.
The City Council on Monday passed a resolution prohibiting officers from using tear gas or other chemicals and from shooting rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Officers will not be able to cover their badge numbers or prohibit members of the public from videotaping them while on duty. They also will be prohibited from forming police lines to arrest large numbers of people, performing chokeholds or using harsher methods.
Some members of the public who attended Tuesday's news conference were heartened to hear that the new chief wants to reach out to the community, but others said wholesale changes are needed within the department, starting with a review of internal policies and procedures.
They wondered if anything would change, even with a new chief.
"You can take the trash out, but it has a way of recycling itself," said Kimberly Handy-Jones, whose son Cordale was killed in 2017 in a confrontation with St. Paul police.
State Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, said the department needs to stop racial profiling and that "some things don't need to be enforced" — a reference to officers stopping Wright because his vehicle had expired license tabs.
After the stop, officers determined Wright had a warrant. Potter mistakenly used her gun instead of a Taser as officers tried to arrest Wright, Gannon said Monday.
In an interview Tuesday with ABC's "Good Morning America," Wright's mother, Katie Wright, said the encounter "should have never escalated the way it did."
Aubrey Wright, Daunte Wright's father, said he can't accept Gannon's explanation that Potter mistook a firearm for a Taser.
"I lost my son. He's never coming back," he said. "A mistake, that doesn't even sound right."
At City Hall, Elliott said the personnel changes won't be a panacea, but the mayor hopes they will bring calm to the community.
"I went out and talked with the protesters and I saw young people who looked like Daunte," Elliott said. "I could feel their pain, their anger, their fear. Ultimately they want justice and full accountability under the law. We have to make sure justice is done."
Staff writer Alex Chhith contributed to this report.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768