April 15, 2021 4:02:55 pm
Written by Nandini Mahajan
On April 11, Daunte Demetrius Wright, a 20-year-old African American man was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center Minnesota. The incident took place at a traffic stop when police officer Kimberly Ann Potter attempted to arrest Wright for outstanding felony offences.
According to news reports, there was a brief struggle between Wright and the police before he was shot. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Associated Press, quoting the city police chief, reported that the officer intended to fire a taser and not a handgun. Chief Tim Gannon described the Sunday shooting as “accidental discharge.”
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Following the incident, Potter, who has been with the department for 26 years, resigned from service. On April 14, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety issued a press release that Potter was arrested on charges of 2nd degree manslaughter and sent to Hennepin County Jail. She has posted bail and will be making her first court appearance via Zoom on Thursday, the CNN reported.
The shooting came at a time when former cop Derek Chauvin is being tried for the murder of another Afircan-American man, George Floyd.
His death had led to widespread protests across the United States and raised important questions about racism and police violence against Blacks and people of colour.
Who was Daunte Wright?
Daunte Wright’s mother Katie Wright and aunt Naisha Wright, who appeared on “Good Morning America”, described him as a “lovable young man” and had been voted as the “class clown” at his high school. He was also the father of two-year-old Daunte Jr.
Jonathan Mason, who worked at Wright’s highschool as a youth development specialist and mentor, described Wright as a “gregarious, popular student who had many friends.”
Mason also spoke about Wright’s future plans. “He said, ‘I want to be an NBA player, I want to be a fashion designer, I want to be a business owner.”
Mason told the Associated Press that the two also held conversations about how Black Americans should respond during encounters with the police.
“He would always say, ‘Many why we gotta do all that just for people not to kill us?’”
Wright and George Floyd also have a common connection. Floyd’s girlfriend Courtenery Ross said she worked with Wright at his former highschool. At a protest against the killing on Tuesday, she told the Associated Press, “(I’m) crushed. It’s enough that Floyd is gone, but for one of my youths to be gone as well.”
“He was just a wonderful, beautiful boy,” she added.
Why did the police pullover Wright?
According to The Associated Press, court records indicate that Wright had a minor criminal record with petty misdemeanor convictions for possession/sale of marijuana and disorderly conduct.
When the officers pulled him over for expired registration tags and hanging an air freshener on his rearview mirror (prohibited by Minnesota state law), they ran his name through the police records and found that he had an open warrant against him for failing to appear in court on charges of fleeing from police and possession of a gun without a permit during another police encounter in June last year.
How did the shooting unfold?
After the police determined that Wright had an open warrant against him, they attempted to take him into custody. When he got behind the wheel to flee the scene, Potter “accidentally” pulled out a gun instead of a taser and shot him.
The Associated Press reported that Potter’s body cam footage from the scene was released at a news conference where she can be heard shouting, “I’ll tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Wright was shot after he managed to escape the police and get into his car, as the car sped away the officer can be heard shouting, “Holy (expletive) I shot him.”
Wright traveled several blocks before crashing into another car. Wright’s girlfriend, who was with him at the time, sustained non-life threatening injuries. The passengers in the other car were not injured, ABC News reported.
According to ABC News, a report issued by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner has concluded that his death was homicide as he died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Gannon, the police chief, said that officers and medical personnel “attempted life-saving measures” on Wright but were unsuccessful.
A source has told ABC News that Potter was training another officer at the time of the shooting.
Wright’s mother Katie told reporters that she had been on the phone with him during the incident when she heard a police officer telling him to hang up. A minute later when she called, his girlfriend answered and said that he had been shot.
Protests and public response
On Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the police department in Brooklyn Center, just a few miles from the incident, NPR reported. The protests continued till late despite a 7pm curfew announced by Minnesota Governor.
The police reportedly used flash-bang grenades, tear gas and foam rounds to disperse the crowds. Local businesses and shopping centres have also been looted. The Protesters also reportedly vandalised two police cars.
Wright’s brother, Dallas Bryant told the gathering that Wright sounded very scared over the phone call and questioned how such an experienced officer accidentally reached for a gun instead of a taser.
“You know the difference between plastic and metal. We all know it.”
The New York Times has reported that Minnesota State Patrol has arrested about 40 people in Brooklyn Center on various charges including violating curfew and rioting. State troopers and National Guard have also been called in to manage the angry protesters.
Fences and barricades have been put up around Potter’s home, with police stepping up patrols in nearby areas.
Cities across the United States have also seen similar demonstrations. In Portland Oregon, people held a candle light vigil in honor of Wright, and a crowd of 250 people marched to a police precinct and threw fireworks. In Los Angeles, police were seen preparing for potential violence and protests, New York Times has reported.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot announced a curfew in the city. He was quoted by CNN as saying, “I share our community’s anger and sadness and shock. My message to all who are demanding justice for (Daunte Wright) and for his family is this: Your voices have been heard, now the eyes of the world are watching Brooklyn Center and I urge you to protest peacefully and without violence.”
Wright’s mother has said that she doesn’t want the unrest to overshadow the wrongful killing of her son. She told CBS News, “All the violence, if it keeps growing it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason.” She added, “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back.”
Reuters reported that The Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has requested that an independent agency investigate the matter and have demanded that videos from the incident be released immediately.
US President Joe Biden said that he has been briefed about the situation and is waiting on full investigation and has spoken with authorities in Minnesota. He said, “I’m calling for peace and calm. And we should listen to Daunte’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm. He has urged people to not engage in violence and looting as it is unjustified, CNN reported.
During a press address, Vice President Kamala Harris said that Wright should be alive today and “law enforcement must be held to the highest standards of accountability.” She added that such killings would keep happening “if they don’t address the racial bias” and “fix the broken system”.
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