MINNEAPOLIS – Family and friends of Daunte Wright remembered the 20-year-old Black father fatally shot during a traffic stop by a veteran Minnesota police officer at a funeral service in Minneapolis on Thursday.
“He was a brother, a jokester,” Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said as she fought back tears. “He was loved by so many. He is going to be so missed.”
Hundreds of mourners were inside Shiloh International Ministries for the service on Thursday, 11 days after Wright’s death in nearby Brooklyn Center.
Katie Wright reflected on Wright’s son, Daunte, Jr., and the “joy” the child brought him.
“He was so happy and so proud and he said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” Katie Wright said.
“Daunte Wright’s life mattered,” the congregation repeated as civil rights attorney Ben Crump began his remarks.
At the start of the service, an artist painted a portrait of Wright on a black canvas with white paint as jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold played a solo of “Amazing Grace.”
“Daunte Wright’s life mattered,” the congregation repeated as civil rights attorney Ben Crump began his remarks. Civil rights leader Al Sharpton will also give a eulogy.
Wright’s death sparked anger, sadness and frustration in a community already on edge amid the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty Tuesday on all three counts of murdering George Floyd. Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot Wright, resigned in the days after his death and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. The city’s former police chief, who also resigned, said he believed Potter thought she was using her Taser when she pulled out her firearm.
Gov. Tim Walz, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Floyd’s family members were also in attendance.
Ellison, whose office led the prosecution of Chauvin, and Floyd’s family, who held up fists, received rounds of applause as Crump praised them during the service. Crump also called for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to pass in Congress.
Outside the church, mourners gathered, too, including several people whose loved ones were killed by police.
Rashad Henry and Brian Jackson know Wright’s father and said more needs to be done to hold officers accountable. “We’re losing too many brothers at the hands of the police,” said Henry, who donned a hat that says ‘I can’t breathe.’ “These cops must be held accountable.”
Jackson said he first learned of Wright’s death on the news and reached out to the family after seeing Wright’s father at a news conference conference. They grew up together. “I feel sad, not so much angry,” Jackson said. “He just had a kid; now that kid has got to grow up without a father. … I know he would’ve been a good dad.”
Wright has been remembered as a young father to Daunte Jr. who enjoyed spending time with family on the Fourth of July. “He was loved. He was ours,” aunt Naisha Wright said last week.
‘He did not deserve this’:Family remembers Daunte Wright as an adoring dad who enjoyed playing sports and celebrating the Fourth of July
During protests over Wright’s death, hundreds who convened nightly at the Brooklyn Center police station were met with rubber bullets, tear gas and members of the Minnesota National Guard. The city was under curfew for several nights as police and protesters clashed and dozens were arrested each evening.
Wright was pulled over on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles north of Minneapolis. His mother, Katie Wright, said her son called her during the stop and said it was about air fresheners in his rearview mirror. Police later said he was stopped for an expired registration. Wright had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant, which led officers to try to arrest him.
Body-camera footage released shortly after his death showed Potter, who is white, intervening as the officer handcuffing Wright stopped for a moment. A scuffle broke out in which Wright appeared to reenter the driver seat. Potter is heard shouting “Taser” as she draws her Glock instead. She shoots Wright, who then drove away, and Potter is heard saying, “(Expletive), I just shot him.”
Tim Gannon, the Brooklyn Center police chief who resigned, characterized the incident as a “accidental discharge.”
However, Wright’s family have said they can’t accept that account of their son’s death and demanded full accountability for Potter.
How could a gun be mistaken for a Taser? There have been at least 16 incidents of ‘weapon confusion’ since 2001.
Katie Wright said last week “justice” in this case would be impossible because it would mean bringing her son home. “Justice isn’t even a word to me,” she said.
Crump said Wright should not have been pulled over in the first place for a minor infraction, such as an expired car registration, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The case has also drawn comparisons to that of Mohamed Noor and Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor, a Black Minneapolis police officer, fatally shot Damond, a white woman, in 2017 after he said he heard a bang on the side of his squad car and thought Damond was a threat. Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 12½ years in prison.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office handed Potter’s case over to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s office following an agreement among prosecutors in the Minneapolis area.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement last week. “We … intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her taser. Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”
Potter faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes in Minneapolis