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Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images
Daunte Wright's killing comes amid the trail of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

The broken social contract of George Floyd and many other Black police victims continues with Daunte Wright

Wright was killed by police at a traffic stop on Sunday, April 11.

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What Happened to Daunte Wright?

As the country still recovers from the murder of George Floyd, the worldwide protests that followed, and the trial that is onging, the recent shooting of Daunte Wright may feel a bit like déjà vu. 

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man from Minnesota, was pulled over on Sunday, April 11 for a traffic violation regarding expired registration tags. Officers then discovered he had a warrant for his arrest.

As seen in graphic body camera footage shown to reporters on Monday, Wright was trying to get back into his car, while officers attempted to handcuff him on the side of the road.

An officer can then be heard saying, “taser, taser, taser” — normal police procedure before firing one of the stun guns. Wright is then seen getting into his car and driving away, while the same officer lets out an obscenity and says: “I just shot him.” 

The car traveled several blocks, striking another vehicle. Police and medical workers pronounced Wright dead at the scene.  

Chief Gannon told reporters that he believes the officer’s intention was to deploy their Taser, but instead, “shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” 

The officer who shot Wright was identified on Monday evening as Kim Potter, a 26-year-old member of the department. Officials said she had been placed on administrative leave.

Her union said in a statement on Tuesday that Potter had resigned from the force, and Chief Gannon also announced his resignation the same day. 

The Hennepin County medical examiner concluded that Wright’s cause of death was a “gunshot wound of the chest and the manner of death is homicide.” 

Katie Wright, the victim’s mother, told reporters that her son had been driving a car given to him two weeks ago by his family, and he called to inform them that he was being pulled over. 

“He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror,” she said. 

His mother also said that her son was driving with this girlfriend when the incident occurred. Police said that the woman in the car was hurt from the crash, but the injuries were not life-threatening. 

Ms. Wright said her son had either dropped or put the phone down, after which she heard what she called “scuffing,” and the voice of an officer telling Wright not to run. Then she heard someone hang up the phone. 

When Ms. Wright called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and told his mom what just happened to her son. 

Court records showed that a judge issued a warrant for Wright earlier in April after he failed to attend a court date. He was facing two misdemeanor charges after the Minneapolis police claimed he was carrying a pistol without a permit and ran from officers last June. 

As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial in Floyd’s death, the Twin Cities have been on high alert, bracing for possible demonstrations similar to those that took place over the summer. 

Wright’s family has hired the renowned civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who is also the lead attorney for Floyd’s family. 

Preventable and inhumane

Reflecting on the case of this young man, Crump said that this level of lethal force was “entirely preventable and inhumane.” 

“As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father,” he said. 

Researchers at Stanford University have found that Black drivers are much more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers are. 

Their studies also show that Black people are searched nearly twice as often as white drivers, and these searches are less likely to yield illegal drugs and other contraband than searches of white drivers. 

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot said the shooting of Wright was “heartbreaking,” and “unfathomable.” 

 

 

Appearing on NBC’s “TODAY” show on Tuesday, Elliot spoke on the unfortunate truth that Black people live with everyday when it comes to “driving while Black.” 

"In this country, if you’re Black and you get pulled over by the police, you have a very much higher chance of being dead just because you’re Black, and just because you’re encountering police," he said. 

Community Response

At a Sunday night vigil at the scene of Wright’s death, his mother urged protesters to remain peaceful. 

“We want justice for Daunte. We don't want it to be about all this violence,” she told the crowd. 

But often, emotional trauma has a mind of its own, and violence becomes inevitable in the face of such repeated injustice, especially in a city that’s still reeling from the police brutality of last summer. 

Protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, began chanting and throwing bricks and cans at officers. At least 20 businesses inside a nearby mall were broken into. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency on Monday and established a curfew from 7 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday. 

Police tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas and flash-bang grenades. As the night waged on, at least three businesses were looted and a few officers suffered minor injuries. 

Around 40 people were arrested at the scene for a variety of charges, including rioting and violating curfew. 

The Social Contract

Author and activist Kimberly Jones, delivered a speech on video that was featured on the June 7 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

In it, Jones perfectly outlined the mindset and root causes behind the riots and looting that took place after the death of George Floyd, and now, Daunte Wright. 

“So when they say ‘why do you burn down your own neighborhood?’ We don’t own anything. There’s a social contract that we all have, that if you steal, or if I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and they fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us. So the social contract is broken,” she said. 

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