Daunte Wright (303564)
Credit: Family photo

“I lost my son, he’s never coming back,” Daunte Wright’s father, Aubrey, said on morning television two days after the 20-year-old, unarmed Black young man was gunned down by police in Brooklyn Center, Minn. on Sunday.

“He just had his whole life taken away from him,” Wright’s mother, Katie, said in the same interview. “We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”

Minnesota continues to be a hotbed for police killings. Brooklyn Center is just 10 miles away from where George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. America continues to watch the trial in that case unfold as another Black man in the area is killed by an officer.

The incident occurred Sunday afternoon when Wright and his girlfriend were pulled over by three officers from the Brooklyn Center Police Department for a traffic violation. His mother says during a phone call with her when the stop occurred, he said he had an air freshener hanging in his rear view mirror. Police say that the tags on his vehicle were expired.

When the officers ran his name in the system, they attempted to arrest Wright for outstanding warrants. Reports indicate that a warrant for his arrest was issued earlier this month after Wright failed to appear in court in March on weapons charges. Body cam footage shows Wright exiting the vehicle and officers try to put handcuffs on him. Wright tried to get back into his car after a struggle.

Former Officer Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, is heard yelling, “I’ll tase ya!” before pulling out her gun, shooting Wright once. Potter is then heard saying, “Oh s–t, I just shot him!” Wright tried to drive away but hit another vehicle before officers tried to perform CPR. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Reports indicate that Potter was training another officer at the time of the shooting. On Tuesday she resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department along with police chief Tim Gannon. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety confirmed that its Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the killing.

The Washington County Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday, April 14, that Police Officer Kim Potter is being charged with second-degree manslaughter. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Daunte Wright’s death a homicide.

Reports indicate that prior to charging Potter, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput met with Wright’s family and their attorney, Benjamin Crump.

If convicted, Potter could face up to 10 years in prison

Prior to his resignation, Gannon said during a press conference that the shooting was the result of an “accidental discharge.” He said Potter meant to use her Taser rather than her gun.

“I have watched the video myself, and there is nothing I can say to lessen the pain of Mr. Wright’s family, friends [and] loved ones of that feeling of loss they must have,” Gannon said. “That pain is shared by the community and all those involved in the incident.”

Wright’s family says they aren’t accepting that his death was the result of an accident.

“They could have given him a ticket, given him a notice to show up,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, who is one of the lawyers representing the family. “They used the most force when it comes to dealing with marginalized minorities. We can’t have these two Americas—one where we treat Black Americans different from white Americans in policing.”

Brooklyn Center city officials extended their condolences to Wright’s family.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and loved ones of Daunte Wright who was tragically killed Sunday afternoon by a Brooklyn Center police officer,” Brooklyn Mayor Pro Tem Tonja West-Hafner and local city council members said in a joint statement. “We realize that our community is going through many raw emotions as we process another tragic loss of a Black man.”

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said Wright should be alive right now. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is calling for enforcement of anti-discrimination provisions of the nation’s civil rights laws against law enforcement departments.

“Whether it be carelessness and negligence, or a blatant modern-day lynching, the result is the same,” Johnson said. “Another Black man has died at the hands of police.”

In the aftermath of the killing, reaction has reverberated around the nation. Civil unrest ensued in Minnesota in Brooklyn Center, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth with demonstrators demanding justice. On Sunday night after the killing, several hundred people took to the streets with police officers using tear gas and rubber bullets to contain the crowd.

Brooklyn Center reported violence and looting. On Monday, 1,000 Minnesota National Guard personnel were deployed across the Twin Cities and curfews were put in place. Nearly 30 demonstrators were arrested.

Locally, peaceful protests for Wright took place across the city in Washington Square Park, Washington Heights, Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side and McCarren Park in Brooklyn. Demonstrators marched across the Manhattan and George Washington Bridges. On Tuesday, rallies were held in Union Square Park and Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Black Lives Matter Greater New York Chairperson Hawk Newsome said that BLM members are planning to go to demonstrate in Minnesota this weekend.

“I think the perfect way to kill a Black man is to state that you have a Taser in your hand and ‘accidently’ shoot him,” Newsome said. “She trains officers. How could she not know that that was gun in her hand? There is no way you can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun. I’m not buying. I think this is her seeing if she can get away with murder. Unfortunately in American this is a place where you can, as a police officer, get away with killing Black people.”