Nearly a year after George Floyd’s murder, yet another black man has died at the hands of a Minnesota police officer. On April 11, 2021, Daunte Wright was killed during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Wright was just 20 years old.
A couple of weeks ago while aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, I came across a post by @TheConsciousKid that said, “Black people killed by police almost always face two deaths. The first is the loss of life and the second is the assassination of character used to justify their murder. This is an additional injustice and just emboldens racist policing.”
As news of Wright’s death began to make its way through media channels, his second death was almost immediate. Political commentators and everyday social media users were quickly chomping at the bits to prove Wright deserved the fate he met. His arrest records were used to justify him being pulled over.
Pictures of him with guns were used to convince us he was a violent criminal. The excused starting piling in before the Brooklyn Center Police Department had even given a public statement on the officer-involved shooting.
The thing is, for black folks, this isn’t new. We’ve seen it before, over and over again. Michael Brown was a thug. George Floyd was a drug addict. 12-year-old Tamir Rice was repeatedly called a man by news organizations like Fox News. All while 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who stands accused of killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin last year is referred to as a “boy” by the same news channel.
Wright is yet another example of just how brutal the second death of black people killed by police is. Even in death, black people in America are not given the same softness and kindness as white people in similar situations. The shortcomings of black people killed at the hands of black people are almost always used against them when they can’t defend themselves.
What people who defend the actions of the police who commit these murders tend to forget when foaming at the mouth to defend them is, this should not be happening at all.
A traffic stop should not result in death, even if the person is not respectfully speaking to the officer.
A traffic stop should not result in death even if the person is not following the officer’s commands.
A traffic stop should not result in death, even if the person is resisting arrest.
A traffic stop should not result in death, even if the person is running away from the police.
While debates about if Wright’s murder was justified, Kim Potter, a 26 year veteran with the Brooklyn Center Police Department was revealed to be the officer responsible for Wright’s death. In another not-so-surprising statement, Potter said the shooting was an accident because she mistook her taser for her gun.
Yes, you read that right. A 26-year veteran, who has used both a taser and gun numerous times throughout her decades-long career, in the height of a tense situation could not tell the difference between her bright yellow taser and her much heavier standard-issued gun.
Days after the shooting, Potter turned in her letter of resignation. Brooklyn Center Mayor, Mike Elliot released a statement stating Potter was not asked to resign but did so on her own. Elliot also announced that he has not accepted Potter’s resignation because his office is still reviewing the matter. What is there to review?
Potter, as seen on her very own body camera footage, shoot an armed black man in broad daylight then admitted his death came because of her own negligence. In any other job in this country that would be grounds for termination, but not for police officers. Potter has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter for the death of Wright which, if convicted, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Which again, is not surprising because police officers in America are rarely held responsible for the murders they commit. More times than not, these same officers are allowed back on the force and released back into the communities they have inflicted harm against all in the name of protecting and serving.
Wright will probably never be given the benefit of the doubt that Kim Potter is currently being given. His character continues to be assassinated as his family mourns his death. His image is being defined by mistakes he was trying to fix. His actions on the day of his death are being scrutinized to an unhealthy extent.
Police departments throughout America have terrorized the very communities they are employed to protect for years on end. Black and brown communities have suffered well-documented abuse at the hands of police for decades. So, it should be a surprise to no one that these same people are fearful of the police. Instead of police departments using the de-escalation policies, they talk so much about then these shootings happen, they turn to violence every time.
They do this because they know they can get away with it. They know little consequence will come their way. This week many black people went to sleep with heavy hearts knowing there is a chance Wright’s death will never get the justice he serves. One of those people was Wright’s mother, Katie Wright. At a press conference on Thursday, Wright’s mother said she knew her son would never get justice because justice would be her son not dying in the first place.
“Justice would bring our son home to us, knocking on the door with his big smile. Coming in the house, sitting down, eating dinner with us. Going to lunch, playing with is one, almost two years old. Giving him a kiss before he walks out the door. So justice isn’t even a word to me,” Katie Wright said. “I do want accountability. 100 percent accountability.”
Until America admits there is a deep, unwavering problem with police departments in this country, black men like Daunte Wright will continue to die at the hands of police. When the gaslighting of black and brown people who have had life-altering and most times life-ending experiences with police stop, a real chance for change will be realized but that will never happen as long as police are allowed to skirt accountability.
Featured Image: April 15, 2021: Daunte Wright Rest In Power, Vigil, Washington Square Park. Photo courtesy of Diane Greene Lent via Flickr