Family and friends mourned Daunte Wright’s shooting death at the hands of a suburban police officer as civil rights and political figures called for broader police accountability.
MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Democratic politicians, civil rights activists and the families of George Floyd and others killed by police gathered in Minneapolis on Thursday for the funeral of Daunte Wright, where mourning for the 20-year-old killed by a suburban police officer was interspersed with celebration of the conviction of Derek Chauvin and hope for nationwide changes to policing.
Wright, a young Black father of mixed race, was shot and killed Apr. 11 by Officer Kim Potter of the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Potter, a white 26-year veteran, training officer and head of the city’s police union, shot Wright during a traffic stop initiated because of expired tabs. Finding that Wright had a warrant out for his arrest for missing court, Potter attempted to detain him, and when he got back into his car she threatened to use her Taser before shooting him. Wright died at the scene.
Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Activists have been pushing Washington County Attorney Pete Orput to add a murder charge, and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot has called for Attorney General Keith Ellison to take on the case.
Ellison was one of many political figures who attended the service at Shiloh Temple International Ministries on Thursday. The service was led by Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who is representing the Wright family and also netted the Floyd family a record-breaking $27 million civil settlement for Floyd’s death under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, sparking celebration around the city that was muted by Wright’s death and that of 15-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, less than an hour before the verdict was announced.
Wright’s funeral started out with songs and with reflections from his family members. His mother, Katie Wright, struggled to speak as she discussed her son.
“I never imagined that I’d be standing here… My son should be burying me.” she said. “My son had a smile that was worth a million dollars. When he walked in the room, he lit up the room. He was a brother, a jokester– and he was loved by so many. He’s gonna be so missed.”
She said that the birth of her grandson Daunte Wright Jr. gave Daunte Sr. high hopes for fatherhood. “The joy that Junior brought to Daunte’s life was truly amazing. He was so happy and so proud. And he always said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” she said.
Daunte’s father, Aubrey Wright, also struggled to speak. “Words can’t even explain how I feel right now. I mean, that was my son,” he said.
After a few of Daunte’s other family members mourned him, the Reverend Al Sharpton delivered his eulogy.
“There is a confusion in this country between peace and quiet,” he said. “Some of us are told to shut up, and just be quiet. And you call that peace. But peace is the presence of justice. You can’t tell us to shut up and suffer. We must speak up when there is an injustice.”
“I heard a man say ‘I’ve not seen a funeral procession like this since Prince in Minneapolis.’ I said, ‘well, we came to bury the Prince of Brooklyn Center,’” Sharpton said.
The reverend pointed to the verdict against Chauvin, thanking Ellison for leading the prosecution and saying that police around the country should be on notice.
“When you see the blue wall of silence tumble in a courtroom in Minneapolis, when policemen understand that they are committed to their oath rather than to their colleague, that’s when we know a breakthrough is coming.” he said. “Next time you get ready to pull your gun, next time you get ready to bend your knee, put in your mind the picture of the man taking the handcuffs and making Chauvin put his hands behind his back and walk to the penitentiary, and know that you will pay for the crimes you commit.”
“I come to Minnesota to tell you your tags have expired,” Sharpton added. He also drew attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping reform bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and awaiting approval by the Senate.
Ellison did not speak, but several other local political figures did, including Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who presented a flag flown at the U.S. Capitol in honor of Wright to his family.
“No words can really help to ease the loss you bear. Just know that your family and friends are close in every thought and prayer,” she said. “Daunte Demetrius Wright brought great joy to his family, and his life was a blessing to all who had the privilege to know him.”
Both of Minnesota’s senators also attended, but only Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke, nodding to her colleague Tina Smith’s work on the George Floyd Act.
“While this was a historic moment for our country, we cannot confuse accountability for justice. Because true justice is not done as long as having expired tags means losing your life during a traffic stop,” she said. “True justice is not done as long as your son is not coming home for dinner.”
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz also spoke briefly, calling for a statewide moment of silence in Wright’s honor and for more accountability across the government.
“We know that this tragedy is connected to the deep and systemic racism in our society that Black people in Minnesota and across this country face every single day,” Walz said. “We must be steadfast in our accountability to change from the top to the bottom, and not rest until we create a different future for Daunte Wright’s son and others like him.”