Charges against Daunte Wright before his death have sparked anger and disinformation - here are the documents that explain what happened

·5 min read
Daunte Wright memorial
A person lights candles at a vigil for Daunte Wright on Monday in Portland, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images
  • Daunte Wright was killed on Sunday while he had an outstanding arrest warrant, the police said.

  • The nature and relevance of this backstory have been the subjects of furious debate since his death.

  • Insider reviewed legal documents that shed light on what happened.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Daunte Wright's killing by a police officer not far from Minneapolis sparked renewed debates about racism and policing in the US.

The police said they pulled over Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, at about 2 p.m. on Sunday in Brooklyn Center because of a traffic violation.

Officers said that when they sought to detain him on an outstanding arrest warrant, Wright attempted to flee, and an officer fatally shot him.

(You can read Insider's coverage of Wright's death and its aftermath here.)

The nature and relevance of the charges have been the subjects of intense debate and false rumors since Wright's death. Insider reviewed court documents that named Wright, one of which was a warrant for his arrest:

Daunte Wright arrest warrant image with border
An April 2 warrant for Wright's arrest. Minnesota Court Records Online

After Wright's death, the police did not discuss details of the warrant that had prompted the officers to try to detain him.

Nonetheless, the issue has taken on a life of its own. One widely circulated claim held that Wright had likely been unaware of the warrant because of a clerical error related to court appearances.

Elsewhere, right-wing news outlets prominently featured Wright's legal history, an approach critics said amounted to downplaying the injustice of his killing by the police.

Documents for two cases Insider reviewed are publicly available via a records website run by the Minnesota court system.

First case: Wright was accused of carrying a weapon without a permit and fleeing from the police.

  • Documents in the case are filed under 27-CR-21-4400.

  • They detail charges that Wright carried a pistol without a permit and ran from the police.

  • A complaint filed on March 4 said that Wright had had an encounter with the police on June 30 in Minneapolis.

  • It said officers responded to a call about a man with a gun and found Wright in a car with other people.

  • The complaint said Wright ran away from the officers, who chased but did not catch him. It said a loaded handgun was found in the car.

  • Another record showed that Wright was due to attend a court hearing via Zoom on April 2.

  • A warrant for Wright's arrest was then filed, suggesting he did not attend the hearing.

  • This was the warrant that the police were acting on over the weekend, officials told The Daily Beast.

  • Arthur Martinez, a public defender who represented Wright, told The Daily Beast that neither he nor Wright had ever seen that document. "He obviously didn't get it, and no one notified me," Martinez said.

  • The last document, submitted on Tuesday, said the case was being dismissed because of Wright's death.

Wright probably cause gun fleeing
A probable-cause statement giving an account of the events that led to a warrant for Wright's arrest. Minnesota Court Records Online

Second case: Wright was charged with aggravated robbery.

  • Documents in the case are filed under 27-CR-19-29850.

  • In December 2019, Wright and another man were charged with first-degree aggravated robbery. They were accused of forcing their way into a woman's home and trying to steal $820 from her at gunpoint.

  • Wright was accused of breaking his bail conditions last July. Documents alleged that Wright was in possession of a gun and had failed to contact his bail officer.

  • The records said Wright was again detained but was released on bail in September.

  • Documents showed that he was due to appear in court this August. There is no evidence of outstanding warrants related to this case, meaning the police would have no reason to arrest him because of it.

Wright aggravated robbery charge
A document from December 2019 describing a charge of aggravated robbery. Wright had been scheduled to appear in court in August 2021. Minnesota Court Records Online

Documents also showed cases that have concluded.

Wright was charged in August 2019 with a petty misdemeanor for disorderly conduct and fined. He also pleaded guilty to a petty-misdemeanor charge related to marijuana in August 2019.

In an emotional call to CNN's Don Lemon this week, Wright's aunt, Naisha Wright, hit back at people seeking to damage her nephew's reputation.

"People are trying to drag my nephew's name through the dirt," she said, adding: "It don't mean nothing. He didn't deserve to die. My nephew was a damn good kid."

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Some conservatives have sought to shield the police from criticism over Wright's killing by pointing to Wright's past.

On Fox News, the host Jesse Watters went through allegations against Wright, including the charge of aggravated robbery.

He argued that media outlets had obscured the details of the case because of a focus on racial injustice.

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Watters also misreported some contents of the documents, dating the aggravated-robbery charge to "about six weeks ago" instead of to December 2019.

People also used the documents to defend Wright, albeit based on a misunderstanding.

Popular posts on social media, including a widely shared TikTok by the comedian Walter Masterson, claimed that Wright had been unaware of a warrant for his arrest in the aggravated-robbery case, citing a document that had been sent to the wrong address.

But that claim does not hold because there was no outstanding warrant in that case - though Wright's lawyer had separately made a similar claim about the other case.

As of Wednesday morning, Masterson's posts had been removed from TikTok and YouTube after widespread pushback, including a fact-checking article by The Daily Dot.

In the days since Wright's killing, protests have broken out near Minneapolis, with demonstrators accusing the police of targeting Wright because of his race.

Wright was killed not far from where George Floyd was killed last year and where the trial of the police officer charged with murder in Floyd's death is underway.

Read the original article on Insider