BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (WCCO) — People around the metro are holding a vigil and mourning Daunte Wright’s death, which they say is re-traumatizing an already deeply hurt Black community.
Activists and members of the Brooklyn Center community demanded accountability Monday, saying they are heartbroken and angered by the fatal shooting of Wright by police during a traffic stop just one day earlier.
Brooklyn Center police said it was an “accidental discharge” of a firearm when an unnamed officer meant to pull a Taser.
“When I looked at the picture of Daunte Wright, it reminded me of my own son who will be 17 this year and who I am afraid to even let get a driver’s license because of the racial profiling that consistently happens in the state of Minnesota,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney.
Another young Black man shot by police comes amid the trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, who faces murder charges for George Floyd’s death last summer that sparked a global outcry.
The context was not lost on Black Minnesotans who noted that “the world is watching” Chauvin stand trial in Minneapolis.
“We demand that you feel the pain, which you have inflicted upon an entire people and community,” said Matt Branch. “We demand that you stop killing us.”
For those in the community, Wright’s death reignites feelings of trauma while they are still healing from the pain of witnessing Floyd’s death on video, in which he is heard crying for his mother and saying “I can’t breathe” while pinned to the ground by Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.
“We can’t breathe. It’s one thing to another every day. We have no time to grieve,” Brooklyn Center resident Alfreda Daniels said.
The officer has not yet been named, but the Brooklyn Center police chief said she is on administrative leave.
Members of the community are calling for her immediate firing and termination of other city officials in the aftermath of Wright’s killing.
“The police chief needs to be fired immediately,” Armstrong said. “The city manager needs to be fired immediately, in order to bring some semblance of justice in this situation.”
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced later Monday that the city manager was fired.
“We are demanding immediate charges. On Tuesday morning, they should be charging this officer with murder,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota.
Mentor Remembers Daunte Wright For The ‘Little Swag To Him’ And As A Young Man ‘People Looked Up To’
Jonathan Mason, co-founder of the nonprofit the 10k Foundation, mentored Daunte Wright when he was a teenager at Edison High School.
He said he felt “sick to his stomach” when he learned Wright was killed during a traffic stop. It was the very type of encounter, he said, that he tried to teach Wright about as an older Black man who had his own tense experiences with police.
Mason’s former students called him to break the news to him. In an interview Monday afternoon with WCCO, he said he was in disbelief.
“This is someone I told, ‘These are the things and precaution that you don’t do.’ ‘This is what you’re supposed to do and when that happens like that, you got to do this,’” Mason recalled. “And now to find out that he’s been killed in one of the biggest weeks in the [Derek Chauvin] trial—It just makes me sick.”
He said kids at Edison High School looked up to Wright and admired “the little swag to him.” He wants people to remember him for the person he was and could’ve been before his life was cut short. Wright was 20 years old.
“I would like people to remember him as what I remember him as a kid—a kid who wanted to play basketball, had inspiring dreams, wanted to be a business owner and wanted have kids—and had a kid—wanted to be a father,” Mason said.