A broken mother and a police chief who admits he has no answers: The fallout from the death of Daunte Wright

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A brother’s face taut with grief, a mother struggling for words.

A police chief with no proper answers, and yet also no regret about firing tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. And a community once again angry, anxious and exhausted. Sick and tired, of being sick and tired.

This was a snapshot of the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, a day after the fatal shooting of an unarmed young Black man, Daunte Wright, by police officers, who had pulled over the 20-year-old and his girlfriend, apparently perturbed that he was breaking the law by driving while an air freshener was attached to his driving mirror.

“He was my brother,” said a young man rushing into a fuel station on Monday morning, close to the scene of the shooting. A friend? “No,” he tells The Independent. “Blood brother. I can’t talk about it. You will have to call his mother.”

It was Damik Wright, who just hours after the death of Daunte, was photographed, apparently with his nephew perched on his shoulders, holding the youngster high above his head, so he could see the police officers assembled as protesters gathered after the killing.

It had been Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, who had alerted the media to what had happened to her son, revealing that he had been talking to her on his mobile phone, even as his life was being ended.

Daunte Wright was ‘accidentally’ shot dead by officer who was trying to taser him

“I heard scuffling, and I heard the police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run’, and then the other officer said, ‘Put the phone down’ and hung it up,” Ms Wright said, standing in the street shortly after the incident at 14.00 local time [19.00 GMT] on Sunday.

“And a minute later, I called and his girlfriend answered — that was the passenger — and said that he’d been shot, and she put it on the driver’s side and my son was laying there lifeless.”

On Monday, Brooklyn Center Police chief Tim Gannon revealed video camera footage showing three officers approaching a white vehicle parked on the side of the road. It showed one officer approaching the driver’s side window, and a second walking to the passenger side. Mr Wright could be seen getting out of the car, and officers telling him there was a warrant for his arrest.

A female officer could then be heard to shout “Taser, Taser”, something police are taught to do when making use of the non-lethal electro-shot device. It rapidly becomes clear she did not then fire the Taser, but rather her handgun. 

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon (C) attends a press conference regarding the killing of Daunte Wright

(Getty Images)

“Holy s***, I just shot him,” she’s heard to tell her fellow officers as the car drives off.

The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Michael Elliott, who moved to the US from Liberia when he was 11, said he thought the officer should be fired immediately. Yet, he said he did not have the power to compel the police chief, or the city manager, to do so.

“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr Wright with a single bullet. This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge,” said Mr Gannon.

He said the female officer, who has not yet been identified, was very experienced and was on administrative leave, while an independent probe was carried out by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Damik Wright, brother of Daunte Wright, holds Daunte’s son during Sunday protest

(Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

He added: “I’m not in the mind of the officer. I can only see what you’re seeing. I can couple that with much of the training that I have received and that’s why I m believing it to be an accidental discharge.”

He later added: “I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning.”

The Independent asked him why police officers in the US repeatedly killed young Black men and other people of colour, at a vastly disproportionate rate. “I don’t have an answer to that question.”

Yet, activists did have an answer. Several of them attended the press conference that at times turned heated, and pressed the police chief, not only over the shooting dead of the young man, but the decision to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters the previous night, and to turn off the street lights, something some said made demonstrators very vulnerable.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told reporters he believed the video he and everyone else had just watched upstairs in the police station, showed evidence not of a mistake, but murder. He said the officer should be brought before the courts on Tuesday morning

“In another other profession, she’d had been kicked off the job immediately,” he said. 

Referring to the National Guard troops that had been deployed at the police station and across the entire Twin Cities, he added: “At this moment that police officer is protected, not only by her own police chief, but the system. And not only that, the entire military that is outside right now, is protecting a killer police officer.”

He said that the police chief and the city manager, Curt Boganey, should also be fired for failing to deescalate the situation on Sunday night.

Brooklyn Center sits barely 16km (10 miles) north of the centre of Minneapolis, and no more than 24km (15 miles) from where George Floyd was killed after being arrested by officers from that force last May. It it also just a short distance from the location of any number of shootings of young people of colour by officers in the Twin Cities in recent years – Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, Mario Benjamin, Isak Aden. 

Evelyn Jarbah (in blue) kneels as protesters take a moment of silence during a rally outside Brooklyn Center Police Department, a day after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a police officer, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

(REUTERS)

The Star Tribune newspaper keeps a database of every officer-involved shooting since 2000. Updated overnight with the details of Mr Wright’s death, it stood at 207. 

Mr Hussein claimed Minnesota was the most racist state in America – “racism with a smile”. The world may have long ago given up on any idea that Minneapolis, a Democratic stronghold, was progressive when it came to race relations, but nevertheless the Tribune’s database made for gloomy reading on a day already etched grey.

“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now, we are in pain right now,” said the mayor, who on Monday afternoon was given direct control of the police department in a vote by the city council. 

“And we recognise that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time, we recognise that this is happening at a time when our community, when all of America, indeed, all of the world, is watching.”

In Washington DC, Joe Biden said he had watched the footage, yet urged people to be calm

“We do know that the anger, pain and trauma amidst the Black community is real,” he said in the Oval Office. “But that does not justify violence and looting.”

Authorities said a curfew would be imposed overnight in the Twin Cities area, even as protesters planned a vigil.

Reports suggested that Daunte Wright had only been given his vehicle by his family two weeks ago, and that he was on the way to the car wash when he was pulled over, and that police discovered there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. After he was a shot, his vehicle rolled forward two more blocks before hitting another car.

On Sunday, the junction close to where he was killed was filled with protesters, who wrote his name onto the street. On Monday morning, the spot was quiet, and two women, Taycier Elhindi, and Emma Lutten, left flowers and candles, close to a tree that was still wrapped in police tape.

“We just wanted to show our respects,” said Ms Elhindi, founder of a group called Visual Black Justice. 

Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, had demanded justice for her son, even as his body still lay in the road. On Monday morning, she told The Independent she was heading to the police station. 

How was she was bearing up? “About as well as can be expected.”



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