MINNEAPOLIS – Family and friends of Daunte Wright exalted the 20-year-old Black father fatally shot during a traffic stop by a veteran Minnesota police officer at a funeral service in Minneapolis on Thursday.
“He was a brother, a jokester,” Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said as she fought back tears. “He was loved by so many. He is going to be so missed.”
Hundreds of mourners were inside Shiloh International Ministries for the service, 11 days after Wright’s death in nearby Brooklyn Center and two days after the police officer who killed George Floyd last May was convicted of murder in a Minneapolis courtroom.
Katie Wright reflected on Wright’s son, Daunte, Jr., and the “joy” the child brought him.
“He was so happy and so proud and he said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” Katie Wright said.
Delivering the eulogy, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that as he arrived at the service, a man told him he had not seen a similar funeral procession since the death of the pop icon Prince, a Minneapolis native.
“I said, ‘Well, we came to bury the prince of Brooklyn Center,”’ Sharpton said to applause from the audience.
Wright was killed April 11 in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles north of Minneapolis, after police pulled him over for driving a car with an expired license plate. During a struggle with police, veteran officer Kim Potter warned that she would tase him but shot Wright with her gun instead. Police said she mistook the weapons.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told mourners at the Shiloh Temple that the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death did not equate justice for all those wrongfully killed by law enforcement.
“True justice is not done as long as having expired tags means losing your life during a traffic stop,” Klobuchar said. “True justice is not done as long as Black Americans are killed by law enforcement at more than twice the rate of white Americans.”
Besides Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Floyd’s family members were also in attendance.
Earlier in the service, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump revved up the packed, energetic crowd as he exhorted them to repeat several times, “Daunte Wright’s life mattered.”
The congregation also responded enthusiastically to an artist painting a portrait of Wright on a black canvas with white paint as jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold played a solo of “Amazing Grace.”
Wright’s death sparked anger, sadness and frustration in a community already on edge amid Chauvin’s trial.
Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts of murdering Floyd. Potter, a Brooklyn Center officer for 26 years, resigned in the days after his death and has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. The city’s former police chief, who also resigned, said he believed Potter thought she was using her Taser when she pulled out her firearm.
Ellison, whose office led the prosecution of Chauvin, and Floyd’s family, who held up fists, received rounds of applause as Crump praised them during the service. Crump and Klobuchar also called for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to pass in Congress.
Outside the church, mourners gathered, too, including several people whose loved ones were killed by police.
Rashad Henry and Brian Jackson know Wright’s father and said more needs to be done to hold officers accountable. “We’re losing too many brothers at the hands of the police,” said Henry, who donned a hat that said, “I can’t breathe.” “These cops must be held accountable.”
Jackson said he first learned of Wright’s death on the news and reached out to the family after seeing Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, at a news conference conference. They grew up together.
“I feel sad, not so much angry,” Jackson said. “He just had a kid; now that kid has got to grow up without a father. … I know he would’ve been a good dad.”
Wright has been remembered as a young father to Daunte Jr. who enjoyed spending time with family on the Fourth of July. “He was loved. He was ours,” aunt Naisha Wright said last week.
‘He did not deserve this’:Family remembers Daunte Wright as an adoring dad who enjoyed playing sports and celebrating the Fourth of July
During protests over Wright’s death, hundreds who convened nightly at the Brooklyn Center police station were met with rubber bullets, tear gas and members of the Minnesota National Guard. The city was under curfew for several nights as police and protesters clashed and dozens were arrested each evening.
Wright was pulled over on April 11 in Brooklyn Center. His mother said he called her during the stop and said it was about the air fresheners. Police later said he was stopped for an expired registration. Wright had an outstanding warrant for possession of a gun without a permit and fleeing an officer, which led officers to try to arrest him.
Body-camera footage released shortly after his death showed Potter, who is white, intervening as the officer handcuffing Wright stopped for a moment. A scuffle broke out in which Wright reentered the driver’s seat. Potter is heard shouting “Taser” as she draws her Glock instead. She shoots Wright, who then drove away, and Potter is heard saying, “Holy (expletive), I just shot him.”
Tim Gannon, the Brooklyn Center police chief who resigned, characterized the incident as a “accidental discharge.”
However, Wright’s family have said they can’t accept that account of their son’s death and demanded full accountability for Potter.
How could a gun be mistaken for a Taser? There have been at least 16 incidents of ‘weapon confusion’ since 2001.
Katie Wright said last week “justice” in this case would be impossible because it would mean bringing her son home. “Justice isn’t even a word to me,” she said.
Crump said Wright should not have been pulled over in the first place for a minor infraction, such as an expired car registration, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The case has also drawn comparisons to that of Mohamed Noor and Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor, a Black Minneapolis police officer, fatally shot Damond, a white woman, in 2017 after he said he heard a bang on the side of his squad car and thought Damond was a threat. Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 12½ years in prison.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office handed Potter’s case over to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s office following an agreement among prosecutors in the Minneapolis area.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement last week. “We … intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her taser. Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”
Potter faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes in Minneapolis