10 miles from the location of Derek Chauvin’s trial for the killing of George Floyd, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot dead by a police officer on Sunday, Apr. 11. The black man and father was killed on his way to get a car wash in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, miles from where George Floyd was murdered.
“The fact that Daunte Wright was killed ten miles away from where George Floyd was killed seems to suggest that fears of police violence in the Black community are still warranted,” history teacher Paul Berk said. “Yesterday’s guilty verdict on all counts for Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd also brings me hope that systematic discrimination against people of color in our country will be addressed in a serious fashion.”
Wright was pulled over for a traffic stop due to him having expired license registration tags, and the interactions between him and the police were recorded on body camera footage. Once officers pulled the man over, they also found that he had a warrant out for his arrest due to a failure to appear in court for charges he received in June. As officers tried to detain Wright, he tussled with the officers and attempted to get back into his vehicle while they tried to handcuff him. During this struggle, Officer Kim Potter yelled “taser” three times before proceeding to shoot Wright, who drove away. After driving away, Wright’s car hit another vehicle after traveling multiple blocks. The one shot Potter fired proved fatal, as Wright was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
“[The shooting] shows how things still have not been solved in systemic racism. This is expected because decades of oppression cannot be solved in one year, but it emphasizes that justices still need to be served,” senior Annette Lu said. “Since last June, BLM has become less highlighted by media because of other news and COVID, etc., but the problem has clearly not been solved. Once again, Wright’s murder shows how the institution hasn’t changed, and the fight continues.”
When Wright was being pulled over, he called his mother, Katie Wright, and spoke with her up until he dropped his phone. His mother heard interactions between her son and police before someone hung up. Ms. Wright called her son back, but her call was answered by a woman who was in the car with Wright, telling her that her son was shot dead.
Officer Potter was a 26 year veteran of the police force up until she resigned from her position. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described that he thinks that Potter mistook her gun for her taser. Chief Gannon also resigned from his position after the events of the shooting. Potter was arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter on Wednesday, Apr. 14 and has since been released on a $100,000 bond with her next court appearance being set for May 17.
“I will say that the prosecution of the office involved in the shooting and the resignation of the police chief does offer some hope that justice is increasingly more possible for African-American victims of police violence,” Berk said.
Throughout the week following the event, protests took place outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, leading to curfews being set into place in and around the area. The protests resulted in damage to nearby buildings, along with protestors throwing objects at officers. These demonstrations were met with police response, such as gas, rubber bullets and riot gear, in addition to an increase in police and Minnesota National Guard presence. Outrage at the shooting also prompted protests in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon and Louisville, Kentucky.
“The depth of emotion that has flowed from Mr. Wright’s death and the protests that it generated have begun, I think, to strike a chord in a larger audience in the U.S.,” Berk said. “More and more people are beginning to recognize the serious nature of police violence in communities of color and more and more of them are willing to speak out against what they see as unacceptable behavior in American institutions.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is serving as the attorney for Wright’s family and is helping to support them during this time. Crump is also representing George Floyd’s family, serving as another connection between the loss of both men. Additionally, Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross taught Wright and remembered him fondly, along with describing how the school system failed Wright. The two families met to lift up one another during this time and both spoke at a press conference to call for justice.
On Wednesday, Apr. 21, a public viewing was held for Wright that was hosted by Crump and Wright’s family. Wright’s funeral followed on Thursday, Apr. 22, during which civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.
“The celebration of Black History Month, the education about slavery and oppression in history classes, and this article are good attempts at awareness that Maclay has done so far,” Lu said. “I think what would be better though is to encourage discussions about it in classes, for example, a current events class.”
Wright was a dedicated father to 2-year-old Daunte Wright Jr., and while he dropped out of high school due to a learning disability, he worked hard at various jobs to support his son. These events were held to honor the legacy of Daunte Wright and remind the nation of the need for police reform and racial justice.
“One of the distinct failures of [Maclay] is in its unwillingness to encourage (or even allow) discussions of topics like race relations, diversity, equity, and inclusion for fear of offending students, parents or stakeholders,” Berk said. “If we expect to have greater progress in making our nation more responsive to the failures of our institutions, we have to be willing to acknowledge them. If we can create a space and way for students to recognize the importance of knowing what’s going on in our society and recognizing inequality and injustice, I think Maclay students and the greater community will be better served.”