If all eyes weren’t turned to Minnesota before the trial of Derek Chauvin began, they are glued to the state now. On Sunday, April 11, officer Kim Potter shot and killed Daunte Wright, 20, when Wright was pulled over for a traffic stop. It happened in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis just ten miles away from the Hennepin County Courthouse where Chauvin’s trial is being held.
The officers in the incident flagged the vehicle because of an expired registration tag (or air fresheners hanging from his mirror), but when it was discovered that Wright had an outstanding gross demeanor warrant, the officers began to make the arrest. Bodycam footage of the incident shows a scuffle ensued when Wright tried to get back into his car during the arrest. In order to subdue him, officer Potter shouts, “Taser! Taser!” while allegedly reached for the taser, but seized her gun instead, shooting Wright in the chest. As Wright drives away, Potter can be heard yelling, “Holy shit, I just shot him!”
He died at the scene.
Among the Black community, particularly in the grieving state of Minnesota, frustration is not enough to describe the reigning emotion. In Brooklyn Center’s diverse community, where people of color account for more than half of the population, this rage must be tenfold.
Potter was placed on administrative leave after the incident, but just before 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, she voluntarily turned in her badge, saying in a letter to city officials, “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”
Police Chief Tim Gannon, who addressed the public during yesterday’s press release and alleged that the shooting was an accident based on what we see in the video, has also announced his resignation on Tuesday.
In the chaos that grips Minnesota and the Brooklyn Center Police Department, it is not hard to see why the police chief stepped away. There have been two nights of vigils in the memory of Daunte Wright. Along with the grief comes the anger.
BREAKING: Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, resigns, officials announce.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 13, 2021
Moments after Wright was pronounced dead, BLM protestors gathered at the scene. A crowd of 100-200 people marched on the Brooklyn Center PD headquarters. Some protests were met by the National Guard in Brooklyn Center, which was already in Minnesota to guard the courthouse where Chauvin is being held. Riots erupted in Portland, Oregon, where crowds turned violent. Approximately 20 businesses were broken into at the Shingle Creek mall. Governor Tim Walz imposed a 6 A.M. curfew on Monday to try and maintain order, but he shared the state’s frustrations in a press conference.
“Our time was made clear last May, in Minnesota, our time to get one shot at fixing that was there,” the governor told reporters. “And in the midst of this trial that the world’s watching the situation repeated itself yesterday.”
Hearing this from leaders in Minnesota is all well and good, but how do they intend on fixing the problem of police brutality? Whether or not Daunte Wright’s murder was accidental has yet to be proved in a court of law, but the incident reveals an inherent problem when police apprehend suspects.
Among the Black community, particularly in the grieving state of Minnesota, frustration is not enough to describe the reigning emotion.
Potter has been a veteran of the force for 26 years; one would think that such a fatal mix up between a gun and a taser would be impossible. Shouting “Taser! Taser!” before deploying the device is part of officer training, which Potter followed in the bodycam footage…only it wasn’t her taser she withdrew.
So how well are officers really being trained? When will the problem end? When will the system stop failing minorities? Brooklyn Center mayor Mike Elliot called Wright’s death “unfathomable”, but in today’s age of police brutality and racial tensions, how unfathomable is it really? When will leaders take action instead of simply paying lip service to mourning parents like Aubrey and Katie Wright?
The alleged accident calls to mind the death of Oscar Grant in 2009, who was killed by former Bay Area police officer Johannes Mehserle, who killed Grant while he was laying on a Fruitvale station track. Mehserle, who was convicted of manslaughter, told authorities that he’d meant to deploy his taser and not his handgun.
Despite the closer connection Wright’s death has to that of Oscar Grant’s, the murder case in the front of our minds is that around Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd in May. With protests sparking all over Minnesota, Judge Peter Cahill only partially sequestered jurors on the case, citing that if jurors feel there is a threat to their safety it might influence their decision on convicting Chauvin, who faces charges of second and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter. Jurors have already been designated to be sequestered once deliberation begins.
George Floyd and Daunte Wright died 10 miles and less than a year apart from each other. I wonder when we will see a break in the cycle that leaves Black people dead on our streets.
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