The Tragic Death of Daunte Wright


Courtesy of Lorie Shaull

Protestors gather to demand justice for Daunte Wright.

Jynnx Betancourt

On April 11, 2021, twenty-year-old black man Daunte Wright was shot and killed by Kim Potter, a forty-eight year old white police woman. The shooting unfolded in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, when Wright was pulled over for a traffic violation related to expired registration tags. 

According to ex-chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, once Wright was pulled over, the police officers continued protocol and looked for Mr. Wright’s records. This is when they noticed Mr. Wright’s air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror—which is illegal in Minnesota. “He called me at about 1:40, said he was getting pulled over by the police. He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror,” Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, confirmed. Then, looking at Wright’s records, the officers discovered that he had a warrant out for his arrest. As the police attempted to detain Wright, he stepped back into his car, prompting a short struggle with the officers, explained ex-chief Gannon, according to the New York Times. In the official body cam footage, ex-officer Kim Potter can be seen pulling out a handgun, pointing it at Wright, shouting “taser!” As Wright began to drive off, Potter fires, shooting and killing Wright. Immediately after, Potter makes the killing known, yelling an obscenity before announcing “I just shot him” to her two fellow officers. Potter later stated that she mistook her handgun for her taser. Wright’s vehicle continued to travel for a few blocks until stopping once it struck another car. Both the police and medical workers then announced Wright dead at the scene. According to the New York Times, the next day, the Hennepin County medical examiner ruled the death as a homicide, deducting that Wright’s cause of death was from the single bullet wound to his chest.

On April 12, 2021, the day after the death of Wright, the Brooklyn Center Police Department held a news conference where they discussed the details of the shooting and studied Kim Potter’s body cam footage. Upon review of the footage, ex-chief Gannon stated that “it is [his] belief that the officer had the attention to deploy their taser, but instead shot Mr.Wright with a single bullet.” Many have since questioned Potter and Gannon, finding this statement hard to believe due to Potter’s twenty-six year veterency as a police officer and the explicit weight difference between the taser and the gun. To comment on the situation, NPR interviewed Nekima Levy Armstrong, a Minneapolis lawyer and activist, “I think it’s unfathomable to believe that a 26-year veteran would not know a taser from a handgun. A gun feels very different from a taser – not to mention the explanation that Police Chief Tim Gannon gave is that the taser is found in your weak hand as opposed to your strong hand. We also know that Daunte Wright was pulled over in the first place, from our perspective, as a result of racial profiling. He was a young Black man driving a nice vehicle.” 

The following day, April 13, 2021, Kim Potter resigned from her position as a police officer. In her resignation letter to Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot and ex-chief Gannon, she noted, “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.” Not long after, Mayor Elliot announced in a press conference that Tim Gannon had resigned as well. The day following, Potter was then arrested and booked into Hennepin County Jail. Later charged with second-degree manslaughter, the Star Tribune reports. She was later released that day after a $100,000 bail was posted. “The second-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both,” reports Star Tribune.

Just a few days after Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd, the Minneapolis community gathered for the emotional funeral of Daunte Wright. Kim Potter’s charge of second-degree murder was not the charge the Wright family was hoping for but “[they’ll] take every win [they] can get at the moment” said Daunte’s brother, Bryant, at the funeral, “My family wants peace. Me and our family are going to try and do it the right way.” Potter’s court date is set for May 17, 2021, reports The Guardian. The Wright family, and Daunte’s supporters, can only hope for the facts to speak for themselves, and for accountability to be held.