Hundreds mourn Daunte Wright, fatally shot by officer in Minneapolis area

A dove flies out of a white woven basket held by several people as the lid is opened
Katie Wright releases a dove after her son Daunte’s funeral in Minneapolis on April 22, 2021. With her is the Rev. Al Sharpton, right.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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Daunte Wright’s mother addressed a funeral crowd of hundreds Thursday, telling them through tears how the 20-year-old fatally shot by police this month had been looking forward to raising his toddler son.

“He always said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” Katie Wright said as she stood flanked by her husband and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis.

A woman holds her hands to her face as she is flanked by other people
Katie Wright, center, at son Daunte’s funeral. The event began after many attendees were led inside the Shiloh Temple church in Minneapolis.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Wright, who was Black, was shot during a traffic stop in the suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11 by then-Officer Kim Potter, who is white. Wright had retreated from police into his car after they tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for missing a court appearance on a misdemeanor gun charge.

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Potter, a 26-year Brooklyn Center police veteran, has since resigned and been charged with manslaughter. The police chief has said Potter mistook her gun for a Taser after stopping Wright for driving with expired tags.

Wright’s funeral came just days after a Minneapolis jury convicted Derek Chauvin, another white former police officer, of murdering George Floyd, 46, who was Black. Some of those who appeared at Wright’s funeral had attended Floyd’s, including Floyd’s relatives and attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents both families.

Crump repeatedly paused to acknowledge relatives of other Black victims whose names have become rallying cries for the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements: Emmett Till, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant and Breonna Taylor. The lawyer summoned Floyd’s relatives to the front of the church where they stood, fists raised, as the crowd applauded.

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“We’ve got to show support,” Floyd’s aunt, Angela Harrelson, said in an interview at the start of the funeral. “Even though we won the battle, the war is still going.”

Harrelson, a nurse who lives in the Minneapolis suburbs, attended with her brother, Selwyn Jones, of Gettysburg, S.D.

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Crump led the packed church in chanting, “Daunte’s life mattered!”

The back of white sweatshirts worn by mourners depict a smiling young man next to a candle
Family members and loved ones gather at the cemetery during the funeral service for Daunte Wright in Minneapolis.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“How did Officer Potter see Daunte Wright? More important, how does America see our children?” Crump said. "... We have to make sure Daunte Jr. knows we stood up for his father.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), seated at the front of the church with Gov. Tim Walz and Rep. Ilham Omar (D-Minn.), called on fellow senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that was passed by the House last month but has yet to be voted on in the Senate.

The bill seeks to, among other things, improve police training to prevent racial profiling, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants and end “qualified immunity,” which protects police from civil lawsuits.

“True justice is not done as long as having expired tags means losing your life during a traffic stop,” Klobuchar said during the funeral. “True justice is not done as long as a chokehold, the knee on the neck or a no-knock warrant is considered legitimate policing.”

In his eulogy, Sharpton encouraged continued protests until the act named for Floyd is passed and justice achieved for Wright’s family.

People in masks surround a casket bearing the image of a smiling young man
Pallbearers in Minneapolis with the casket of Daunte Wright, 20, who was killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“We are not going to be quiet as long as there is no justice,” he said, citing fatal police shootings this week in North Carolina and Ohio.

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Protesters gathered Thursday afternoon outside the Stillwater, Minn., home of the prosecutor handling Potter’s case, calling on him to upgrade her charge to murder.

“I’m going to do everything I can to convict her of what she did,” Washington County Atty. Pete Orput said during a heated exchange with protesters in the street that was captured on Facebook live.

“She committed murder, Pete!” protesters shouted back. “If that boy was white, there would be no question. Or, if Kim Potter was a Black woman.”

“I’m not trying this case out in the street,” Orput said before retreating inside his house.

The small crowd chanted, “Bring murder charges!”

Candles, flowers, signs and other items sit on the ground before a statue of a raised fist
The makeshift memorial honoring Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on April 22, 2021.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Activists last week clashed with police at the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Police responded with pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. But the city of about 30,000 has been quiet since the Chauvin verdict.

“We do have to continue to protest and fight, but peacefully,” said Debra Trainor, 64, an administrative assistant from the Minneapolis suburbs, after attending Wright’s funeral.

“It’ll be peaceful,” said Brian Jackson, 41, of St. Paul, who runs a sober-living house and grew up with Wright’s father.

Jackson said the Chauvin verdict put local police on notice.

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“It’s going to make a big difference,” he said. “Just because they have a badge, they can’t treat someone any way they feel.”