Say His Name: Daunte Wright


Maroon Staff

The air freshener became a symbol of change after the murder of Daunte Wright.

Hannah Wang

Just ten miles away from where the Derek Chauvin trial took place, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot by a police officer on April 11th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wright had pulled over to a traffic stop, and officers from the Brooklyn Center Police Department said that they had come across a warrant for his arrest. In a brief struggle, police body camera footage showed that one of the officers, named Kim Potter, pointed a handgun at Wright for several seconds and yelled, “Taser!” three times. After she fired a fatal round at Mr. Wright’s chest, his car sped off a little before crashing into another vehicle. Potter, who had previously served the department for 26 years, resigned from her job shortly after and was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, recounted the phone call she had with the police as her son was being pulled over. She told reporters that her son said that he was being pulled over for having air fresheners hanging from the car’s rear view mirror. However, former Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said that the officers had initially pulled Wright over due to issues with expired registration tags, before noticing the air fresheners. “It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy her taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Gannon stated, claiming the incident was an accidental discharge.

Despite urges from Katie Wright for protestors to remain peaceful, hours after a vigil was held in honor of Wright, protesters threw bags of garbage, bricks, water bottles, rocks, and cans at officers outside of the police department, while also breaking into several businesses at a nearby mall. In return, officers fired rubber bullets and projectiles at protesters and released tear gas. Local schools closed and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot issued a curfew for multiple counties in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. 

Whether this incident was an accident or not, homicide is homicide: another precious life unlawfully lost in the hands of a police officer. Although not common, there have been sixteen other known cases in the past where a police officer mistook a gun for a taser and shot an unarmed person, such as the 2015 shooting of Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Of course, such a horrific event brings up a lot of indignation and resentment, while also providing additional questions. 

Although the news that Derek Chauvin had been charged as guilty during his trial brought relief to most, it is evident that racial justice and equality are far from being served. “[It] seems like the police in Minneapolis haven’t learned anything or reformed at all,” Suler Lu ‘23 commented.

Why should it be normal for POC to fear the very people who are said to protect them? “I think we need to think about larger system,” said SHS Social Studies teacher Andrew Morgan. “There are structural issues within our society that explain why we have a certain problem with this.” How long and how many more lives lost before reform happens? Justice must be served and continue to be served for every innocent life lost. 

Helpful Links: 

Article with Resources about Racism

BLM – How to Support Daunte Wright