'I wouldn’t change anything': Fmr. Brooklyn Center Chief on firing, handling of Wright killing

Former Brooklyn Center Police Chief, Tim Gannon, believes he made more than 100 critical decisions after former officer Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright.    

He can’t think of one decision he would change.

"I lost my job, but I did it doing the right things," said Gannon in his first interview since he was fired, just 48 hours after the killing of Wright, 20, on April 11. 

"In every decision that I made for those two or three nights; I thought any other police chief would’ve made those same decisions.  They were the right decisions to make," Gannon said. 

Gannon said his easiest decision was also one of his first:  Releasing the body cam footage showing Potter pointing her handgun at Wright, who was unarmed, while shouting, "Taser, Taser, Taser."

"I wanted the community to know that we were going to be honest, transparent, and if it looked bad, it looked bad," Gannon said.

At the press conference the day after the killing, April 12, Gannon showed the body cam footage, and described it as "an accidental discharge that resulted in the death of Mr. Wright."  

Both Gannon and former City Manager Curt Boganey, said Potter would not be fired immediately and was entitled to due process. 

Gannon declined to talk directly about the killing, because he will likely be called as a witness in Potter’s trial for manslaughter later this month. 

‘A Difficult Relationship’

But Gannon had plenty to say about Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who he said orchestrated his firing and the removal of Boganey, the long-time city manager, who had direct authority over the police department. 

Mayor Elliott did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Even before Wright was killed, Gannon said there was tension with the mayor, who he believes wanted more power over the police department. 

"It was, I would say, a difficult relationship. We didn’t always see eye to eye on certain issues," Gannon said. 

The day after Wright’s killing, Mayor Elliott told Chief Gannon he needed to attend a 10 a.m. community listening session before the chief’s 11a.m. press conference where he would reveal the body cam footage to the media. 

"I walked in, and to be honest with you, I didn’t recognize many, if any citizens from Brooklyn Center. It turned out to be a number of activists from Minneapolis and St. Paul that the mayor had invited in to ridicule me for the way I handled the protests the night before," Gannon said. 

He said the activists, backed by the mayor, wanted him to fire Potter immediately. 

Gannon refused, believing he should follow civil service procedures, separate from criminal charges, that allow for an internal investigation, followed by possible discipline or termination, and an opportunity for the employee to appeal the decision with an arbitrator. 

"I think the policy is in place for a reason.  It affords everyone the protection of doing things in the right way, not rushing things, not disciplining out of emotion.  It’s a fair and transparent process," Gannon said. 

"Nowhere in the policy does it say you can disregard this policy if you have political pressure. It doesn’t say that," he said.   

Gannon said he believes the activists held enormous sway over the mayor, who escorted them to the chief’s press conference, leading to a confrontation outside an employee entrance to the police department. 

Eventually, the activists were allowed into a press conference that even some members of the media were not able to access. 

Gannon said the activists were disruptive during the delayed televised press conference and prevented him from getting his message across. 

BCA: "We Must Remain Impartial"

Gannon said he had expected the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which was handling the criminal investigation into Wright’s killing, to explain their timetable and process at the press conference. 

At the last minute, the BCA bailed, he said. 

"In talking to Drew Evans, the (BCA) superintendent, he said that was because I had elected to show the video so early against their recommendation," Gannon said. 

A spokesperson for the BCA, Jill Oliveira, disputed that rationale and said the BCA "does not appear at news conferences held by agencies whose officers we are investigating."

Oliveira said the BCA must remain impartial and avoid, "even the appearance of a conflict of interest."

"We appreciate agencies coordinating with the BCA regarding any release of evidence so that we can ensure everyone understands the potential impact to the investigation.  We followed that process in this case," she said.

Chief’s Undoing

At an emergency city council meeting Monday evening, the mayor was given emergency powers over the police department.  The City Council also removed longtime City Manager Curt Boganey, who had refused to fire Potter or Gannon. 

In a statement, Boganey said, "I lost my job.  I still have my integrity." Boganey did not respond to an interview request.

Gannon said with Boganey fired, he walked up to the interim city manager, Reggie Edwards, "And I asked him point blank:  ‘Am I still the police chief?’ The mayor, who was not addressing me at the time, leaned in and said, ‘You are for now.’" 

While the chief navigated the political machinations at City Hall, he was also contending with protests outside the police station.

"In almost 30 years of police work, I've never seen anything like that," said Gannon, who feared a repeat of what happened at the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis eleven months earlier.   

He said protestors were throwing soup cans, bricks, and launching fireworks at police.

A mobile field force operated by the Minnesota State Patrol and Hennepin County Sheriff, was defending the police station.  Its commanders wanted the city to declare the protest outside an ‘unlawful assembly’ before officers were injured.

"The mayor could not make a decision," Gannon said.

"I turned to the mayor and said, ‘We need to have a decision.  Put it on me.  I will make the decision,’" Gannon recalls saying. 

"He looked me in the eye. He got up and he walked out of my office.  I took that to mean he was delegating the authority for me to make the decision," Gannon said.

Tuesday morning, Gannon got an email from Kim Potter resigning.  He then got a call from the interim city manager, Reggie Edwards. 

"And he basically told me, in no uncertain terms that there was going to be a leadership change and I was no longer going to be the police chief," Gannon said.

Gannon was allowed to resign instead, retaining the benefits from 27 years of service to the Brooklyn Center, the only police department he’s ever worked for. 

Where’s the ‘de-escalation’?

Not everyone sees the chief’s role, or his firing, in such a noble light.

"It was the aggression of police that turned everything up," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Hussein said he tried to broker a détente between police and protestors but was told by officers on the front line that the chief was too busy preparing to talk. 

Hussein believes police energized the crowd that first night by turning the police station into a militarized zone.

"At that moment it could’ve been solved very peacefully, no one from our side made any aggression until they come out with the riot gear and held the line.  Here’s the battle, now you come," he said.

Hussein was also at the Monday morning meeting with community activists and found the chief to be defensive and unable to answer questions about the killing of Wright. 

Hussein gives the chief credit for quickly releasing the body cam video and believes that was sufficient to fire Potter. 

Gannon disagrees, and believes he did everything according to established policy and procedures for police shootings. 

"It ended my professional law enforcement career," Gannon said.  "I just wasn’t ready to give it up."

Since April, when Wright was killed and Gannon was fired, 14 officers have left the Brooklyn Center Police Department, which leaves 35 officers in a department with an authorized strength of 49 officers. 

The city’s public works director and a human resources director have also left.