What Happened With Daunte Wright?

People protesting for justice in the death of Daunte Wright.

Wikimedia Commons

People protesting for justice in the death of Daunte Wright.

Emma Schmerold, Reporter

Daunte Wright was a 20-year-old black man that was killed at a traffic stop in Minneapolis. His killer, former police officer Kim Potter, was charged and arrested on Wednesday, April 14 for his death. Potter meant to shoot him with her taser but instead fired her handgun.

This kind of killing has happened before, once in 2009 officer James Mehserle fired his gun instead of his taser, killing Oscar Grant in Oakland, California. In another example, in 2015 Tusla, Oklahoma deputy Robert Bates killed Eric Harris who was already held on the ground by other officers. He was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and four years in prison.

Tasers are designed differently on purpose, typically they are lighter, and have a different grip and feel, when you take the safety off of the taser the LED control panel lights up, the taser also has some bright yellow on it. Law enforcement experts say that the gun should be on the officer’s dominant side and the taser should be on the non-dominant side. 

Wright was initially pulled over for a traffic violation in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. He was tried to be arrested after officers found out he had a warrant for a gross demeanor weapons charge. Potter shot Wright as he resisted Potter’s then-chief, Tim Gannon, said she appeared to mistake her gun for her taser, Gannon resigned this week.

Ah, he shot me.”

— Daunte Wright's last words

Assistant prosecutor Imran Ali said, “we…intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm instead of her taser.”  In Minnesota, second-degree manslaughter is defined as when authorities allege a person caused 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”. Someone convicted of this would face a sentence of upwards of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

Online records show Potter, who resigned as a police officer, posted bail and was released from custody on Wednesday. She will make her first court appearance via Zoom on Thursday, April 22 at 1:30 p.m. CT. The resident medical examiner from The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Wright’s cause of death being a gunshot wound and that his death was a homicide.

Mike Elliot is the Brooklyn Center mayor who has worked on bringing together different ethnic groups since 2019. Elliot was born in Liberia and is the first black mayor of Brooklyn Center. During a press conference on Monday, Elliot stated, “We are all collectively devastated and we have been for over a year now by the killing of George Floyd and that we continue to be distressed as we go through the Derek Chauvin Trial. So having a police-involved shooting happen in our community and killing a young man is heartbreaking and just unfathomable.”

The shooting took place about 10 miles from where the shooting of George Floyd took place a little less than a year ago.

Hours after the death of Wright, hundreds took to the streets to protest gathering around the police department.  According to a tweet from Operation Safety Net (OSN), protesters were “launching bottles, fireworks, bricks and other projectiles at public safety officials.” Police fired tear gas and stun grenades on Monday at protesters. During the second night of protests, a curfew was put into effect for Brooklyn Center and police officers arrested those who violated the curfew.

The Minnesota National Guard was originally planning to increase patrol due to the Chauvin trial, with the closing statements are approaching. More than 500 National Guard soldiers had been helping to control the crowd. There were reports of rocks and other objects being thrown, shots fired, a Dollar Tree was broke into and the fire was spread there, about 20 businesses had been broken into. Some of those who protested at the police station later dispersed and two people were arrested.