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Tensions Remain High As Derek Chauvin's Trial Nears End

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Two recent fatal police shootings and the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd have much of the country on edge this weekend. There were protests last night in Chicago over the shocking killing of a 13-year-old Latino boy and in Brooklyn Center, Minn., where a police officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday. And there's tension in the Twin Cities as the closing arguments are set for Monday in the Chauvin trial.

Joining us now from Minneapolis is NPR correspondent David Schaper. Good morning, David.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Good morning, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So tell us about the mood there after the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

SCHAPER: Yeah, it's still tense. I mean, people are frustrated that these incidents keep happening, and many of them want to make sure that their voices are still heard and - as they push for change in the way police departments here and all over the country interact with communities that they're supposed to protect. I talked with Kim Griffin (ph). She's with a community organization called A Mothers Love. And she says that the Black community there is traumatized.

KIM GRIFFIN: The wound is not a new wound. It's a wound that has been existing for quite a while. It's just the scab has been knocked off and is oozing again. And it's just a lack of trust in the people that we're supposed to be able to trust and rely on.

SCHAPER: You know, nothing could reinforce a sense of division between police and the community more than the double rows of concrete barricades and fencing with razor wire that's all around this police station with the people kind of on the other side and the National Guard vehicles and soldiers behind it. It's really just a fraught situation.

ELLIOTT: The officer who shot Wright is now charged with second-degree manslaughter for allegedly pulling out her gun when she meant to grab her Taser. Has her arrest reduced the tensions at all surrounding the shooting?

SCHAPER: Yeah, maybe a little bit, but really not much. I mean, there is a sense of relief among some here over the swift action in filing the charge, but some here also want to see her face more serious charges than just one count of second-degree manslaughter, which could result in prison time if she's convicted but also could just get a sentence of probation. Twenty-eight-year-old Mercedes Thomas (ph) told me that she doesn't really feel strongly about the charges either way.

MERCEDES THOMAS: I'm just hoping that justice is served properly. At the end of the day - let's just be honest - there's no amount of time she can serve that's going to bring that young man back.

ELLIOTT: So the trial of another former police officer, Derek Chauvin, could go to the jury as early as Monday after closing arguments. Can you give us a preview of what to expect?

SCHAPER: You know, the prosecution presented a strong case with dozens of witnesses, including the police chief of Minneapolis and other experts from policing who testified about Chauvin's use of force, that it was excessive and it violated their protocols. There were medical experts who testified that Floyd was killed by Chauvin's knee being pressed down on his neck.

But, you know, the defense tried to raise doubt about the cause of death and argued that Chauvin did not break the rules regarding the use of force. They argued that it could've been drugs that were in Floyd's system, that Floyd's own health issues or even carbon monoxide poisoning could've contributed to his death.

It was extraordinary to have police testifying against one of their own. And, you know, Floyd's death was this catalyst for widespread protests last summer, and it's a catalyst for efforts to significantly change policing.

ELLIOTT: That's NPR's David Schaper reporting from Minneapolis. Thanks, David.

SCHAPER: My pleasure, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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