(Headline USA) The city that became the epicenter of nationwide race riots last summer, and an early test case for the viability of the “defund the police” movement, will face its next big challenge as simmering tensions seem likely to spill over into the new year—and a new presidential administration.
Police in Minneapolis shot and killed a man during a traffic stop on the city’s south side Wednesday night, stirring anxiety about renewed protests following the first police-involved death in the city since George Floyd‘s death while being arrested in May.
Police did not provide details of the investigation, nor release any information about the man, including his race.
They said the man died in an exchange of gunfire, and Chief Medaria Arradondo said witnesses said the man fired first.
He said the officers’ body cameras were turned on and promised to release the video on Thursday.
“I want our communities to see that so they can see for themselves,” he said.
Until then, Arradondo said, “Please allow me, the [state] investigators, allow us the time, let us get the evidence, get the facts, so we can process this.”
Police spokesman John Elder said the incident happened about 6:15 p.m. while officers were carrying out a traffic stop with a man suspected of a felony.
Elder said the man was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel. A woman in the car was unhurt, Elder said. He declined to say whether police recovered a gun at the site of the shooting, a Holiday gas station.
Elder said no officers were hurt. He said he didn’t know how many officers were at the scene carrying out the traffic stop or how many were involved in the shooting.
The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is handling an investigation.
Dozens of people gathered at the scene in the hours after the shooting, including some who interrupted Elder and sharply questioned him as he delivered a media briefing.
Arradondo said the traffic stop was carried out by members of a police community response team—longstanding units that respond to things like drug investigations and gun crime. He said he did not have additional details on why the man was sought.
The shooting happened less than a mile from the street corner where George Floyd died in May while in police custody.
Floyd’s death—which may have resulted from an overdose of fentanyl and other narcotics—was captured on video when the officer attempting to restrain him with a neck press ignored his pleas and those of a crowd that had gathered at the scene.
In Minneapolis and several other far-left cities, Floyd’s death also led to a push for radical change in law-enforcement, which included the defunding and re-envisioning of the police department.
A push by some City Council members to replace the department with a new public safety unit failed this summer.
Nonetheless, crime in the city has skyrocketed as a result of new restrictions and extra scrutiny placed on authorities. Many veteran police force members chose to resign or retire after being publicly attacked and undermined in the hours of their greatest need for support.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Arradondo, who opposed doing away with the department, have offered several policy changes since Floyd’s death, including limiting the use of so-called no-knock warrants, revising use-of-force policies and requiring officers to report on their attempts to de-escalate situations.
The new episode is likely to prove the first major test in whether the weakened department can sustain itself with extra restrictions imposed upon it.
It may also highlight the efficacy and/or failures of “defund the police” movements on a national scale, with Democrat Joe Biden’s administration expected to take over the White House next month.
Already, Biden has backpedaled on campaign pledges to immediately repeal the immigration policies of President Donald Trump.
Biden, who successfully ducked issues of law-enforcement during his campaign, offered a tepid support for law enforcement while often refusing to condemn rioters.
Frey said in a statement late Wednesday he was working with Arradondo for information on the shooting and pledged to get it out as quickly as possible in coordination with the state investigation.
“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 and that trust between communities of color and law enforcement is fragile. .. We must all be committed to getting the facts, pursuing justice, and keeping the peace.”
All four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired and quickly charged in his death. They are scheduled for trial in March.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press