What We Know About the Killing of Daunte Wright
Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, was killed by police during a traffic stop on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. His death has sparked demonstrations in the Minneapolis suburb and around the United States, and reignited the national conversation around policing practices and violence against black Americans. Wright was pulled over just 10 miles from where another unarmed black man, George Floyd, was killed last May by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin’s trial entered its third week on Monday, compounding the tension that beset the community following Wright’s death the previous day.
Here’s what we know about Wright’s killing and everything that’s happened since:
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What happened to Daunte Wright?
Wright was driving in Brooklyn Center around 2 p.m. on Sunday. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who resigned on Tuesday, said during a briefing on Monday that Wright was pulled over for expired registration tags on his license plate, and that officers noticed “an item hanging from the rearview mirror” as they approached the vehicle. It is against the law in Minnesota for drivers to hang things from their rearview mirror. Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said later that the “item” was an air freshener.
Katie Wright said she was on the phone with Daunte as the officers approached his car. “I heard the police officer come to the window and say put the phone down and get out of the car,” she said. “Daunte said why. He said, ‘We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.’ I heard the phone get put on the dashboard or dropped. I heard scuffling. I heard the police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run. The other officers aid, ‘Put the phone down,’ and hung it up. A minute later I called and his girlfriend answered, which was the passenger in the car, and said he’d been shot. She put it on the driver’s side and my son was laying there lifeless.”
According to Gannon, after the officers pulled Wright over they discovered there was a misdemeanor warrant out for his arrest. When they tried to detain him, Gannon said, Wright got back into his car. Graphic body camera footage released Monday shows officers trying to handcuff Wright before he jumped back into his vehicle. A scuffle ensues, and a female officers can be heard yelling about a taser. The officer, later identified as 26-year veteran Kim Potter, draws her gun and points it at Wright, who is now in the driver’s seat, before firing a shot. Wright’s car immediately speeds off. “Oh, shit!” Potter says. “I shot him.”
Wright was unarmed.
Gannon said the shooting was an accident. “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” he said on Monday.
After Wright was shot, his vehicle traveled multiple blocks before striking another vehicle. No one in the other vehicle was injured and the woman in Wright’s car sustained non-life-threatening-injuries, authorities said. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.
Who is Daunte Wright?
Wright was a 20-year-old father of a two-year-old son. He dropped out of high school around two years ago due to a learning disability, his father, Aubrey Wright, said, according to The Washington Post, and has since been working in fast-food restaurants to support his son. He had planned on going back to school to get his GED. “He was a great kid,” Aubrey Wright said. “He was a normal kid. He was never in serious trouble. He enjoyed spending time with his two-year-old son. He loved his son.”
The warrant out for Wright’s arrest was issued earlier this month after Wright failed to make a court appearance. He had been charged with two misdemeanor counts for carrying a pistol without a permit and running from Minneapolis Police officers last year. “I know my son was scared,” Katie Wright told ABC News. “He’s afraid of the police, and I just seen and heard the fear in his voice. But I don’t know why and it should have never escalated the way it did.”
“He had a two-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him,” she added. “He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much. He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represents the family of George Floyd, announced Monday that he is representing Wright’s family, as well. “Daunte Wright is yet another young black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us — not just the whitest among us,” Crump said Monday.
What’s going to happen to Kim Potter?
Potter, 48, was a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police force. She had served on the negotiating team, and as her police union’s president. She was placed on administrative leave following Wright’s death on Sunday, and on Tuesday she submitted her resignation.
“I am tendering my resignation from the Brooklyn Center Police Department effective immediately,” she wrote. “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced Tuesday afternoon that the City Council had voted to fire both Potter and Police Chief Gannon, and that Gannon, too, had resigned. “Obviously it’s been an eventful several hours for our city,” Elliott said at the press conference. “We are still experiencing trauma from the events that unfolded that led to the killing of Daunte Wright.”
Wright’s family has called for justice. “We have several police officers in our family,” Naisha Wright, Daunte’s aunt, said Monday night on CNN. “I don’t have nothing bad to say about them, but what I got to say is that she needs to pay for what she did to our family. My family’s blood is on their hands. My brother and my sister is hurting. How do we put life together after this? Some people say it’s all in God’s plan. That was not God’s plan. This stuff should not be going on like this.”
What about the protests?
The demonstrations began hours after Wright’s death. Protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, some throwing objects at officers. The demonstrations continued into the night, and brought to mind those that broke out across the nation last summer after George Floyd was killed by police around 10 miles away from where Wright was killed on Sunday.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officers who killed Floyd, entered its third week on Monday. The courthouse is just miles away from where Wright was killed on Sunday, and the community is on edge as Floyd’s death has been litigated. “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said, according to the Post. “We are collectively devastated.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency on Monday, instituting a 7 p.m. curfew. This didn’t stop demonstrators from returning to the streets that night. Police tried to break up the crowd with tear gas. Some businesses were looted. The community’s frustration was on display during a tense interview between CNN’s Sara Snider and an unidentified Brooklyn Center man. “You’re doing all this extra shit for the back-hand shit to make people look all crazy,” the man said of the media’s coverage of the demonstrations.
An official said Tuesday morning that around 40 people had been arrested.
What are people saying?
Several prominent celebrities and politicians have decried the shooting, and Minnesota’s MLB, NBA, and NHL teams all postponed their games on Monday. Former President Barack Obama released a statement on Tuesday morning. “Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s important to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but this is also a reminder of just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country.”
President Biden on Monday called the killing “really tragic” but stressed the need to wait to see what an investigation reveals. Biden also stressed that “there is absolutely no justification” for looting. “We do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in the black community in that environment is real,” he said. “It’s serious and it’s consequential. But it will not justify violence and/or looting.”
“I’m calling for peace and calm,” the president added. “And we should listen to Daunte’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm.”
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