‘They didn’t have to kill him’: anger and outrage as locals mourn Daunte Wright

Protesters in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center pay their respects to the unarmed Black man, 20, shot dead by police

Amid the drizzle and grey sky on Monday, Bethany Hemrich came to pay her respects near the site where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot dead less than 24 hours before.

Yellow cordon police tape still dangled from a nearby tree at the intersection of 63rd and Lee Avenue, and Hemrich, who lives a mile away, brought with her flowers and balloons to memorialize the young man who was killed by police on Sunday afternoon.

“As a mother of a Black child, I couldn’t even fathom,” Hemrich, who is white, said. “My son is 10, and I brought him to [the] George Floyd memorial and had to explain racism to him.”

As her voice broke, she continued: “They didn’t have to kill him. I feel like if it was a white person, they wouldn’t have shot him.”

Wright, who is Black, was killed during a traffic stop in Minnesota’s Brooklyn Center on Sunday afternoon when a police officer, who has yet to be identified, mistakenly shot him with a gun instead of their Taser, the department said.

On Monday afternoon, police released graphic body-camera footage of the incident, which shows Wright briefly grappling with an officer as he is held outside his car. He is then shot as he gets back into the car.

“Holy shit. I just shot him,” the officer, who is female, says as the car drives away.

Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, sits less than 15 miles north from where George Floyd was killed by the now ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May last year. Floyd’s death has become a symbol for the estimated hundreds of people killed by police in Minnesota and for racially biased policing around the world.

Wright’s death came just before Chauvin’s murder trial began its third week, and many who came to protest outside the Brooklyn Center police department on Monday morning said the incident had further raised tensions.

“This just added gasoline to the fire. We’re tired and fired up, and this is just adding gasoline to the flames that has already been flaming,” said Quinn Redeemed, 46, who drove 35 minutes to protest in front of the Brooklyn Center police department on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, hundreds of protesters clashed with police, who were dressed in riot gear and used teargas, flash-bangs and other munitions on the crowd.

“The police stood there as if they were ready for war,” said Toshira Garraway.

Garraway, the founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, was hosting a rally for her fiance, Justin Teigen, who was killed by Saint Paul police in 2009, at the time Wright was killed.

She said she moved the event to join protesters in Brooklyn Center after she heard the news of Wright’s death.

“The police were tapping on their guns with their fingers, doing all types of intimidating tactics,” she said.

On Monday, a small group of protesters congregated in the drizzle as a phalanx of police officers dressed in riot gear and armed national guard troops fortified the police headquarters.

As the Brooklyn Center police chief, Tim Gannon, played the body-camera footage to the public a small group of community organizers stood in the lobby.

A number of them wept as they saw the footage. Others shouted with outrage.

Garraway said that seeing Wright die made her nervous about her son, 15. “You look at a picture of [Wright] and [then] my son, he [Wright] almost looks like my child.”

“They [police] will always say, ‘I was afraid, or it was an accident.’ But the fact of the matter is: this was a murder. If she is not fired, this is only going to escalate.”

Outside, Redeemed reflected on the latest turmoil.

“The world needs to really see what’s going on. And now, the world is watching Minnesota so it has to happen and it starts here.”


Amudalat Ajasa and Oliver Laughland in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

The GuardianTramp

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