Daunte Wright’s Murder Leads to Heightened Tensions and Heightened Controversy

Image courtesy of MinnPost

By Justin Lamoureux

In recent weeks, Americans have been captivated by the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer recently convicted of the death of George Floyd in an incident that captured national attention (and generated substantial controversy from two sides of the political spectrum). This week, however, the divisions caused by the case were exacerbated when law enforcement fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

This incident happened in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota – about 10 miles from where Floyd was killed last year. The fatal dispute ensued on Sunday, April 11, when officers arrested Wright for a traffic violation related to expired registration tags. While doing so, they learned that an arrest warrant existed for Wright. According to Chief Tim Gannon of the Central Brooklyn Police Department, Wright backed into his car as officers attempted to apprehend him, and a brief struggle ensued. Body camera footage released to reporters the next day showed an officer pointing a handgun at Wright and shouting “Taser.” After the car drives away, the officer can be heard shouting an expletive, followed by “I just shot him.”

After Wright was shot, the car drove several blocks and hit another vehicle. Police and medical personnel pronounced him dead at the scene. Wright’s mother, Kate, told reporters he called her when he was being arrested. Obviously, Wright believed he was arrested “because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.” After her son puts down (or drops) his phone, she claims to have heard “fighting” and an officer telling Wright not to run. Someone then ended the call. When she called back, a woman who was in the car with Wright answered, informing her that he had been shot.

The officer who shot Wright was later identified as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Central Brooklyn Police Department and president of the local police union. At first glance, few would have questioned Potter’s apparent decorum: She was involved in training newly recruited officers and also traveled across the state with the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Honor Guard. Association, which marches at funerals and memorials for officers killed in the line of duty. . Law enforcement claims Potter accidentally shot Wright, having mistakenly drawn his gun instead of his taser. This argument has received heavy criticism from civil rights activists and legal experts. The Reverend Al Sharpton, alongside the Wright family’s lawyer, expressed disbelief that a seasoned police officer had proven unable to differentiate

between a gun and a taser, and asked the question “how was she even under the force for so long?”

Potter was arrested on Wednesday and charged with second-degree manslaughter. However, she was released from Hennepin County Jail later that evening after posting $100,000 bond.

Wright’s brother, Dallas Bryant, expressed disappointment with the lenient nature of these charges, but noted that “I’ll get every win I can get right now.” He continued to say his family “want peace” and intended to approach the legal proceedings “in the right way”.

Speculation about Potter’s career future was short-lived as she handed in her resignation letter on Tuesday morning. According to Downtown Brooklyn Mayor Mike Elliott, the city did not encourage Potter to resign but likely would have fired her. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time she’d been involved in a fatal incident. Two years ago, she was among the first officers on the scene of a police shooting in which officers killed an autistic man who allegedly grabbed a knife. It was claimed that Potter ordered two officers involved in the shooting to “exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body-worn cameras, and not speak to each other.” Chief Gannon also resigned from his post that day.

In the aftermath of that shooting, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department would take a tougher stance on police accountability. For starters, he plans to rescind a Trump-era memo that limited the use of consent decrees that hold police departments accused of misconduct accountable. Garland intends to replace it with a memorandum that “clarifies that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with long-standing Department practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s workforce,” as he described it. in a statement Friday. Essentially, Garland wants to reaffirm the department’s perceived commitment to ensuring equal justice for all and its intention to use the legal tools at its disposal to do so. Among these are consent decrees, which a judge can use to keep tabs on a police department to make sure it is complying with the court-ordered agreement. The Trump administration has suspended the use of these warrants, expressing concerns about their effectiveness.

The Wright shooting further reinforces the relevance of police conduct as a political issue. In recent years, a number of cases where people have died as a result of perceived misconduct by law enforcement have led to increased scrutiny of their practices. Of course, calls for greater accountability have been fraught with controversy. Additionally, this incident once again puts the Black Lives Matter movement in the spotlight. Since Wright’s death, a number of protests have erupted across the country; many have led to clashes between protesters and police. Perhaps more importantly, however, this event will fuel further debate regarding the precedents of the American legal system. Going forward, practices such as qualified immunity (which grants leniency to police officers in certain cases involving the death of a suspect) and the alleged use of racial profiling will certainly remain at the forefront of public discourse.

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