The African-American man who was shot by a white female police officer in the city of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 11, was born in Chicago and moved to Minnesota as a child where he went to school. Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed after a traffic stop with police. At a press conference on April 12, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said he believes the officer, who has been identified as 26-year veteran Kim Potter, mistakenly fired her gun thinking she was using her Taser.
On April 14, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced Potter will be charged with second degree murder in connection with Wright’s death. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Wright’s death a homicide. According to Minnesota law, second-degree manslaughter applies when authorities allege a person causes someone’s death by “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.”
Potter was taken into custody on April 14 just before noon in Minnesota. At Crusader press time, she was awaiting a bond hearing after being booked into the Hennepin County Jail at 12:07 p.m., according to jail records.
Gannon’s initial statements did not go over well with the public or his boss, Mayor Mike Elliott. On April 13, both Potter and Gannon resigned from the police department, pending approval from the Mayor. Elliott also fired the Brooklyn Center City Manager Curt Boganey, and the City Council gave complete control of the police department to the Mayor. Elliott said this is a temporary move that was needed to be done in the time of an emergency. He said he has no plans for maintaining autonomous control over the police department.
Many are questioning how an officer can mistake a Taser for a gun, when officers are trained to keep each separately on their gun belts far away from one another to prevent such an accident from occurring. Brooklyn Center officers are trained to keep their gun on the side of their dominant hand and the Taser on the other side of their duty belt. A Taser weighs on average eight ounces, while a fully-loaded service weapon can weigh nearly two pounds, according to police training experts.
On bodycam video released by Chief Gannon, Kim Potter can be heard saying: “Holy sh*t! I shot him,” after firing her gun. Wright was seen on the video resisting arrest and attempting to get back into a white Acura he was driving as his girlfriend was in the passenger’s seat. The vehicle belonged to his mother.
Wright was being pulled over for having expired tags on the vehicle, and officers also noticed an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. At some point the officers realized Wright had a bench warrant and attempted to take him into custody. Based on the dashcam video, you can see three police officers at the scene, two males and one female. Only the female officer, Kim Potter, discharged her firearm.
Mayor Elliott, who came to the U.S. from Liberia when he was 11, was elected to office in 2019. Considered an up-and-coming Black leader in politics, he said his city was “hurting” from the shooting, especially with the trial of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin taking place just 10 miles away.
“The officer shooting in Brooklyn Center is tragic. We are asking the protesters to continue to be peaceful and that peaceful protesters are not dealt with with force,” Elliott said.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting an independent investigation of the incident.
The air freshener situation is something many drivers do not know about.Minnesota law also prohibits drivers from having anything hanging from their rearview mirror. This includes air fresheners, graduation tassels, work I.D.s, parking passes and handicap placards (while vehicle is in motion), masks, sunglasses, dice, pictures of kids, rosary, stethoscopes, etc.… People of color have complained that the vagueness of this law gives police officers reasons to bother drivers for a minor offense, which often leads to situations getting heated.
According to the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-503):
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle with any objects placed or suspended between the driver and the front windshield, rear window, side wings or side windows immediately adjacent to each side of the driver which materially obstruct the driver’s view.”
According to the Minnesota Vehicle Code:
“A person shall not drive or operate any motor vehicle with any sign, poster, or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, sidewings, or side or rear windows of the vehicle, other than a certificate or other paper required to be so displayed by law or authorized by the state director of the Division of Emergency Management or the commissioner of public safety..”
A statement from the Minnesota State Bar Association cited a recent release by the Center for Disease Control that listed racism as a public health crisis.
“A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism in this country has had a profound and negative impact on communities of color. The impact is pervasive and deeply embedded in our society—affecting where one lives, learns, works, worships and plays and creating inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits—such as housing, education, wealth, and employment.”
Located just north of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center is one of the original inner-ring suburbs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and is the corporate headquarters home of the Caribou Coffee Company. It has a population just over 29,000, with about 15 percent of its residents being Black, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.