The Daily Beast
Wright Family/HandoutPolice in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center fatally shot a Black 20-year-old man during a traffic stop on Sunday afternoon, setting off a string of violent protests amid tensions over the Derek Chauvin murder trial. The victim’s mother spent much of Sunday afternoon at the scene of the fatal shooting, pleading with officers to remove the body of her son, Daunte Wright, from the pavement. Hours after the shooting, hundreds of residents surrounded the police headquarters and clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and flashbangs reminiscent of last summer’s protests after the police death of George Floyd. “He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him,” Katie Wright said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47... Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us... I said please take my son off the ground.”Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott also identified Wright as the victim of Sunday’s incident. On Sunday night, Elliott called the shooting “tragic” and urged both police and protesters to remain peaceful.“Our hearts are with his family, and with all those in our community impacted by this tragedy,” Elliott tweeted. “While we await additional information from the BCA who is leading the investigation, we continue to ask that members of our community gathering do so peacefully, amid our calls for transparency and accountability.”On Monday afternoon, Elliott added that President Joe Biden had reached out “to offer his administration’s support” following the unrest. The Brooklyn Center Police Department said the incident occurred shortly before 2 p.m., after officers initiated a stop for a traffic violation. Wright’s mother said that during the stop, her son called her to tell her he had been pulled over because an air freshener was allegedly hanging in his rear-view mirror—which is an offense in Minnesota. Katie Wright, mother of Daunte Wright, 20, describes the phone call with her son as he was pulled over. @kare11 pic.twitter.com/3lz5jncTuc— Chris Hrapsky (@ChrisHrapsky) April 12, 2021 “He called me at about 1:30. He said he was getting pulled over by the police. And I said ‘Why you getting pulled over?’ And he said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rear-view mirror. I said, ‘OK take them down,’” Wright said, adding that she could hear a scuffle break out and someone yelling, “Daunte, don’t run.” When she called back, her son was dead.Police say that during a name check, they discovered Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant. As they tried to take him into custody, cops said Wright re-entered his car—prompting an officer to discharge his weapon. Wright then drove several blocks before “striking another vehicle,” police said in a press release. “Officers in pursuit and responding medical personnel attempting life-saving measures, but the person died at the scene.”Police also noted that a female passenger who was in the car was injured during the crash, and she was transported to another hospital. The occupants of the other car were unharmed. It is not immediately clear why police opened fire or if Wright was presumed to be armed, or what the arrest warrant was for.Wright also had previous run-ins with law enforcement. According to court records, he was charged with a petty misdemeanor twice in August 2019—once for selling marijuana and another for disorderly conduct. In February, however, Wright was charged with aggravated robbery. He was released conditionally, according to jail records.The most recent, publicly available warrant for Wright’s arrest in Minnesota’s court records system is from last July, for violation of the conditions of his release on a 2019 robbery charge to which he had pleaded not guilty. Following a hearing in August, and the posting of a $30,000 bond, the judge ordered him conditionally released. He was due to appear in court this summer.Protests then broke out despite Wright’s family pleading for calm. By nightfall, police fired rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flashbangs at around 500 protesters who had gathered near the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and defaced the signage. Brooklyn Center also issued a 6 a.m. curfew in an attempt to curtail the violence, but that effort was largely unsuccessful after many of the protesters retreated into nearby residential areas, according to the Star Tribune. This is #DaunteWright and his son Duante Wright Jr. Earlier today Duante Sr. was shot to death during a traffic stop reportedly about an air freshener obstructing a mirror.He was 20 years old and killed by a Brooklyn Center Police Officer in MN. He was unarmed. pic.twitter.com/p3VOOiaLK8— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) April 12, 2021 Around midnight, National Guard troops tried to secure the area as looters stormed a nearby Walmart store. Local media reports that many nearby businesses, including a Foot Locker and New York clothing store, were damaged in the ensuing violence. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, alongside State Patrol and Hennepin County officers, said early Monday that the Guard presence would remain “robust” for the next “two or three days.”Wright’s mother called for calm, telling the gathering crowds: “All the violence, if it keeps going it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason. 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.”By early morning, the protests had spread to southern Minneapolis and were gaining strength in numbers ahead of first light. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he is “closely monitoring” events and Brooklyn Center Mayor Elliott called on police to avoid using force against peaceful protesters. “A difficult night in Minnesota. We mourn with Daunte Wright’s family as another Black man’s life is lost at the hands of law enforcement,” Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith tweeted Monday.The shooting was also brought up Monday before court began in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes before he died during a May 2020 arrest over a counterfeit bill. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, requested to sequester the 12-person jury, stating that Sunday’s shooting could have hindered their ability to make an impartial decision about his client’s fate.Judge Peter Cahill, however, denied the motion after highlighting that while there is “civil unrest and maybe some of the jurors did hear about it,” the cases are unrelated and there has been no evidence of jury-tampering. Brooklyn Center Community Schools have pivoted to remote learning on Monday “out of an abundance of caution,” Superintendent Carly Baker wrote on the school’s website. “I haven’t entirely processed the tragedy that took place in our community and I’m prioritizing the safety and well-being of our students, families, staff members, and community members,” he added.The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Monday demanded an “immediate, transparent and independent investigation by an outside agency,” adding that the body-camera footage belonging to all the officers involved in the shooting should be released immediately. The group also called that the names of the officers be released. “We have concerns that police appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do too often to target Black people,” the ACLU of Minnesota tweeted. For Wright’s family, however, the initial shock of losing the 20-year-old, whom they describe as a new father who had a whole life ahead of him,” is still overwhelming. “We just want people to know Daunte was a good kid,” the family said in a statement. “He loved being a father to Daunte Jr.”“Daunte had a smile to make anyone’s heart melt. He was definitely a jokester, he loved to joke with people, especially his brothers and sisters,” the family added. “He did not deserve this,” the family added.- Will Bredderman contributed to this report. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.