Ex-Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has sued city officials, alleging that he was forced to resign for his refusal to immediately fire the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during an April 2021 traffic stop.
Gannon alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court that his decision to protect ex-officer Kim Potter's procedural rights granted under her contract led to city officials forcing him to resign. He said he was ousted in retaliation for and discrimination against his Caucasian race.
On April 11, 2021, Potter pulled over Wright for a minor traffic violation. Moments later, the 20-year-old, unarmed Black man resisted arrest and attempted to drive away. Potter shot him, and said she mistook her gun as a Taser. The police shooting — in the midst of ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin's trial for the murder of George Floyd — sparked days of violent protests outside the police station.
Gannon's attorney, John Fabian, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Julie Fleming-Wolfe, outside counsel assigned to represent the defendants — city of Brooklyn Center, City Manager Reggie Edwards and Council Member Marquita Butler — also declined in an e-mail to comment on pending litigation.
"The City was just served yesterday. We are in the process of reviewing the claims and will be filing a response with the court soon," the e-mail said.
Gannon's nearly 30-year career with Brooklyn Center ended in the fallout of Wright's killing. "[H]e ran a highly functioning and well-respected Department up until the day of his termination on April 13, 2021," the lawsuit said.
On April 12, body-worn camera footage from the fatal shooting was shared publicly by Gannon, and he made comments that the shooting appeared accidental.
Gannon was asked by residents and activists if he was going to fire Potter, but he told them that she is entitled to certain procedural rights under her collective bargaining agreement.
The City Council voted at an emergency meeting later that day to give authority over the Police Department to the mayor's office and to fire City Manager Curt Boganey after Boganey declined to fire Gannon. Edwards was appointed as acting city manager.
Earlier in the year, Gannon asked Boganey, who is Black, what protections he had. Gannon said he was told "he was a long-tenured employee in good standing with the city" and that his due-process rights included addressing any allegations against him.
The evening of April 12, Butler, who is Black, said Gannon was "anti-community," according to the lawsuit, "difficult to work with at times" and "did not show up in the right way for the community."
"These statements were false, made with malice, racially divisive, and were made with the intent to imply that [Gannon's] actions in response to the protests did not serve the City's Black community members," the lawsuit claims.
The council approved a motion to direct Edwards to terminate Gannon and Potter, but Edwards said he would consider it overnight. The next morning, Gannon heard rumors that he had been terminated, so he went to meet at 10 a.m. with Edwards, who told Gannon that the city needed a new police chief, according to the lawsuit.
"Edwards then offered the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination. The City had already prepared a press conference for [Mayor Mike] Elliott to announce [Gannon's] termination at or around 11:00 a.m.," the lawsuit said.
In response to the ultimatum, Gannon resigned.
A month later, Gannon requested notes and recording from the closed meeting on his performance and all related communication among council members on his employment. To date, the lawsuit claims, the city has refused to provide this information, which is public under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Gannon's lawsuit seeks damages of more than $50,000. In addition to allegations of retaliation and discrimination, Gannon said Butler defamed him with her public comments. He also claims the city breached its contract and violated the data practices act and open meeting laws.
Brooklyn Center was recently served another lawsuit filed by Wright's girlfriend, who was in the front passenger seat during the shooting and subsequent crash. She is suing the city and Potter for a broken jaw and PTSD.
In June, the city of Brooklyn Center settled with Wright's family for $3.25 million.