Police shooting of Daunte Wright amid Derek Chauvin trial adds more trauma to wounded Twin Cities

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Backed against her Brooklyn Center apartment building with a group of neighbors, Endeshia Tolliver watched warily as a line of riot police launched less-lethal projectiles at protesters darting between trees.

Tolliver, a special education assistant at Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis, has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. She has made it a point to get to know the police, who are headquartered next door, and she trained her teenage son on how to survive a traffic stop as soon as he learned to drive.

The death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop on Sunday, is a Black mom's worst nightmare, Tolliver said as she watched protesters stand off against police Monday night.

"Everything about it is sad. I'm sad for the family, I'm sad for all the mothers and fathers who fear this type of day," she said. "This is my fear, every day."

Wright's killing and its aftermath is adding new, searing layers of trauma for Twin Citians already reeling over racial inequality in the justice system. As the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin displays videos of George Floyd's death over and over, the shooting of yet another unarmed Black man nearby is leaving deep emotional scars.

"The city is going through a crisis, and it's so sad," said Tolliver. "There are a lot of people over here who don't live over here, so my job right now is to keep my family safe."

After officials said an officer mistakenly grabbed a gun instead of a Taser, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott acknowledged that the police killing "couldn't have happened at a worse time."

"Our hearts are aching right now. We are in pain right now," Elliott said a day after the shooting. "We recognize that this is happening at a time when our community, when all of America, indeed all of the world, is watching our community, that we are all collectively devastated, and we have been for over a year now by the killing of George Floyd."

Early Monday evening, people amassed in droves at the corner of 63rd Avenue and Kathrene Drive for a brief vigil where Wright died. They left flowers and stood in silence while holding LED candles in the wind. Fluegelhorn player Butchy Austin played "Amazing Grace" as the crowd sang along quietly.

Later, outside the police department, tensions heated between protesters and law enforcement, who exchanged explosives including fireworks and flash bangs.

Another family on the block worried that their neighborhood would end up in the same state as Minneapolis last summer, when rioters burned and looted buildings in the wake of Floyd's death under Chauvin's knee.

Melissa Freese's children, Charity and Eric Chirpich, were sad that school had been canceled in anticipation of unrest, as they were hoping to celebrate their 14th and 12th birthdays on Tuesday with their classmates.

"I feel like I'm OK with you guys protesting," Charity said. "It's just that being an eighth-grader, it's really stressful."

The family watched police launch canisters that exploded with loud flashes into the air above the apartment across from where they stood on Humboldt Avenue.

"There's little kids in those apartment buildings all over, and they can't sleep. … Violence does not solve violence," Charity said.

"It just makes it worse," Eric said.

A Mother's Love, a peacekeeping group on contract with the city of Minneapolis to provide support services during the Chauvin trial, also appeared in Brooklyn Center to help de-escalate tensions.

"I am mentally and emotionally exhausted," founder Lisa Clemons posted on Facebook.

"I will say this about [Wright's] family. Even in their pain they were the calmest people out there."

Clemons said a relative of Wright stopped several people from crossing police tape and vandalizing squad cars.

"I stood back for quite a while watching him in amazement. I finally walked up to him to hug him and he collapsed in my arms crying. At that point, I couldn't hold back my own tears. This kid touched every fiber of my heart."

On social media, Twin Cities residents expressed dismay and disbelief over the deadly traffic stop, debated looting as an expression of social breakdown and lamented the emotional weight of the past year.

As Ramadan began Monday night, many Muslims were forced to cope with multilayered stressors around the killing of Wright, including questioning whether it was safe to go out during curfew despite religious services being added to a list of exemptions.

"It's fairly transparent that the decisions our state is making are compounding trauma onto the most marginalized people in our community," said Aisha Chughtai, a Minneapolis City Council candidate. "This is a horrific thing to be watching."

Zoë Jackson • 612-673-7112

Susan Du • 612-673-4028

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