Protests erupt following a fatal police shooting in Brooklyn Center

Hannah Owens Pierre, staff writer

In the midst of the contentious trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is on trial for the murder of George Floyd, a 20-year-old Black man was fatally shot on April 11 by an officer in Brooklyn Center, roughly 10 miles away from the courtroom. 

Duante Wright was shot by the police officer during an altercation on the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue, just before 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. A news release issued by the Brooklyn Center Police Department reported that the stop was initiated due to a “traffic violation.” Officers then reportedly determined that Wright had an outstanding warrant. Court documents show that Wright was being sought for allegedly fleeing from the police with a gun, for which he did not possess a permit. “At one point as officers were attempting to take the driver into custody, the driver re-entered the vehicle. One officer discharged their firearm, striking the driver. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle,” the statement said. 

Wright died at the scene of the crash, while another female passenger sustained non-life threatening injuries in the crash. The Department believes that body cameras and dashboard cameras were activated during the shooting, according to the news release. Currently, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is handling an investigation into the matter.

Shortly afterwards, Katie Wright arrived at the scene of the crash to identify her son as the victim. She said her son had called her while being pulled over by the police in a vehicle his family had just given him weeks prior. He was reportedly driving to a car wash with his girlfriend. 

“He called me at about 1:40 p.m., said he was getting pulled over by the police,” she said. “He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.” During the call, she said she heard scuffling and a police officer yelling “Daunte, don’t run.” After she called back, her son’s girlfriend explained that he had been shot. 

A crowd of people quickly gathered at the scene with Wright’s relatives. Wright’s family urged individuals to remain nonviolent in protest. “We need to make sure it’s about him and not about smashing police cars, because that’s not going to bring my son back,” Wright’s mother said. She pleaded with authorities for her son’s body to be taken off of the streets. “He’s been there since 1:47 this afternoon,” she said.

Earlier that day, a large group met at a St. Paul rally to honor citizens killed by the police. Protestors at the scene of Wright’s death faced a standoff with police as the crowd demanded answers from law enforcement. Though the crowd was mostly peaceful, after 6:00 p.m. they began pushing back a line of police officers that had gathered around the scene and several protestors ripped down crime scene tape. Others were shown jumping on police cars and breaking their windows. 

Outside of the police building, chants of “Black lives matter here” and “Say his name” could be heard from the roughly 500 individuals who had gathered. A chalk memorial for Wright formed near the shooting, with candles being lit as relatives embraced. By 8:00 p.m., though, the police had fired tear gas into the crowd, following protestors throwing objects such as rocks and trash at law enforcement. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott urged “protesters to continue to be peaceful” at 8:02 p.m. on twitter. 

A human barricade of nearly all of Brooklyn Center’s police officers in riot gear formed at a standoff with protesters outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Flash bangs and tear gas were used throughout late Sunday night to disperse protesters, after the police announced the gathering was unlawful and ordered people to disperse. The gas fired towards the crowd reached several apartment buildings nearby. 

“I am closely monitoring the situation in Brooklyn Center. Gwen and I are praying for Daunte Wright’s family as our state mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement,” Gov. Tim Walz tweeted at 10:02 p.m. 

Widespread looting occurred throughout several businesses near Brooklyn Center. More than 25 businesses were looted in Brooklyn Park, a neighboring city to Brooklyn Center on Sunday night, according to the New York Times. Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington reports that 20 businesses were broken into at Shingle Creek Mall. The front door of the police building was reportedly smashed by gunpowder, as the National Guard was activated to work with law enforcement, according to Harrington. 

Brooklyn Center Community Schools have switched to distance learning for Monday, April 12. “I haven’t entirely processed the tragedy that took place in our community and I’m prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, staff members and community members. Tomorrow, our staff will be focused on the needs of our students. We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process,” Superintendent Dr. Carly Baker wrote in a statement on the school’s website.