Shooting of unarmed Daunte Wright sparks protests around the country

Man killed by officer following a traffic stop on account of supposedly accidental gunfire


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Protests demanding justice for Wright

Lauren Noble, Assistant Editor, News

Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright was shot on April 11 during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburbs by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, sparking protests across the country.

Against the background of the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer who has been charged with manslaughter and the murder of George Floyd, Wright’s death has provoked protests as “Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the streets of Brooklyn Center, Minn., on multiple nights after the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright,” according to the New York Times.

The shooting unfolded after Wright was pulled over for minor infractions: expired license plates and illegally hanging air fresheners along with other items from his rearview mirror. 

NBC News quotes Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, stating that “He was pulled over for having an expired registration on the vehicle. When the officer went over, an item hanging from the rearview mirror was spotted. It was after that…that the officers discovered that a ‘gross misdemeanor warrant’ for Wright’s arrest had been issued.”’

Wright had been charged in March for possession of a pistol without a permit and fleeing a police officer. The court had issued a warrant for Wright’s arrest on April 2 after failing to appear at the hearing; which was active at the time of Wright’s death, as explained by USA Today in an article fact-checking the widespread misinformation that Wright had not appeared to the hearing due to misaddressed court documents.

Wright had been asked to step out of his vehicle and place his hands behind his back following a record check by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Anthony Luckey. ABC News explains the circumstances happening minutes before Wright’s death: “Wright exited his car and initially followed commands…Officer Luckey told the victim that he was being arrested for his outstanding warrant.’ The two were standing next to the open driver’s side door as Luckey was attempting to handcuff Wright, when Wright tried to reenter the car, body-worn camera footage released by the Brooklyn Center Police Department shows.”

Luckey’s training officer, Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, had also approached the driver’s side door as Wright was being taken into custody. As he struggled to get back into the car, Potter can be heard in the bodycam footage [warning: disturbing footage] yelling, ‘I’ll Tase you, I’ll Tase you!’ as she held her Glock 9mm handgun in her right hand and pointed it at Wright.”

Following shots to his left side, Wright drove several blocks until he struck another vehicle where he was pronounced dead at the scene after the responding medical personnel attempted to save his life. The Hennepin County medical examiner said Wright died from a gunshot wound to the chest, as reported by ABC News.

FOX News reports that Potter had resigned from her post the Tuesday following Wright’s death, the same day that Police Chief Tim Gannon also tendered his resignation. 

A protest and vigil took place near the scene of Wright’s death where Wright’s mother urged protestors to remain peaceful. “We want justice for Daunte,” she said. “We don’t want it to be about all this violence.”

However, hours after, protesters gathered outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, as detailed by the New York Times. “Protesters chanted and threw things at police officers, inching closer to the building until they were pushed back when police officers fired projectiles that burst with a loud bang and gas that burned their throats and eyes. The gas reached several apartment buildings across the street where families said they were shaken by the conflict that erupted in their front yards.”

“John Harrington, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said the unrest that followed Mr. Wright’s death had spread to a mall in Brooklyn Center and that people had broken into about 20 businesses there. By about midnight, most of the protesters had fled from around the police department, once National Guard troops and Minnesota State Patrol officers arrived to back up the police officers who stood around the building with riot gear and batons.”

Another New York Times article describes the protests: “Protesters chanted and threw bricks and cans at officers.  At least 20 businesses inside a nearby mall had been broken into, an official said. Protesters would gather again on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and on both nights the police fired projectiles into the crowds after declaring the protests unlawful. The authorities around the region have imposed curfews.”

“The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state agency that investigates police killings in Minnesota, said that Ms. Potter had been arrested and taken into custody on Wednesday morning. She faces a charge of second-degree manslaughter, Pete Orput, the top prosecutor in Washington County, said on Wednesday.”

Potter made her first appearance in court at the Hennepin County court the Thursday following the murder. It was a brief online hearing in which she had not been asked any questions. “Hennepin County Judge Paul Scoggin set the next court date for May 17”, reported Al Jazeera News, “and ordered Potter, who is out on a $100,000 bond, not to use firearms or explosives for the duration of her case.”

“In charging Potter with second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors will try to show she was ‘culpably negligent’ and took an ‘unreasonable risk’ in shooting Wright If convicted, Potter faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.”

AP News quotes Wright’s mother: “Unfortunately, there’s never going to be justice for us…Justice isn’t even a word to me. I do want accountability.”

Governor Tim Walz posted his condolences on Twitter, stating that he and his wife are “praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.”

All of this is further complicated by the recent verdict in the Chauvin trial. Chauvin, who was found guilty on all three counts, including murder and manslaughter, will be sentenced next month. The verdict will likely set a precedent that will spur the re-examination of police practices across the country.