Police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center fatally shot a Black 20-year-old man during a traffic stop on Sunday afternoon, setting off a string of violent protests amid tensions over the Derek Chauvin murder trial.
The victim’s mother spent much of Sunday afternoon at the scene of the fatal shooting, pleading with officers to remove her the body of her son, Daunte Wright, from the pavement.
“He got out of the car, and his girlfriend said they shot him,” Katie Wright said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He got back in the car, and he drove away and crashed and now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47… Nobody will tell us anything. Nobody will talk to us… I said please take my son off the ground.”
The victim’s mother said her son called her during the traffic stop she said was tied to the presence of air fresheners hanging in the car, which is an offense in Minnesota. “He called me at about 1:30. He said he was getting pulled over by the police. And I said why you getting pulled over. And he said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rear-view mirror. I said, ‘OK take them down,’” Wright said, adding that she could hear a scuffle break out and someone yelling, “Daunte, don’t run.” When she called back, her son was dead.
Police say that during a name check, they discovered Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant. When they tried to take him into custody, he returned to his car, where he was fatally shot. Police have not yet explained the motive for opening fire or if Wright was presumed to be armed.
Protests then broke out despite Wright’s family pleading for calm. By nightfall, police fired rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bangs at around 500 protesters who had gathered near the Brooklyn Center police headquarters and defaced the signage. They tried to enforce a 6 a.m. curfew that was largely unsuccessful, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Many of the protesters retreated into nearby residential areas.
Around midnight, National Guard troops tried to secure the area as looters stormed a nearby Walmart store. Local media reports that many nearby businesses, including a Foot Locker and New York clothing store, were damaged in the ensuing violence.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington alongside State Patrol and Hennepin County officers said early Monday that the Guard would remain “robust” for the next “two or three days.”
Wright’s mother called for calm, telling the gathering crowds: “All the violence, if it keeps going it’s only going to be about the violence. We need it to be about why my son got shot for no reason. 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.”
By early morning, the protests had spread to southern Minneapolis and were gaining strength in numbers ahead of first light. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he is “closely monitoring” events and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot called on police to avoid using force against peaceful protesters.
“He was so goofy. He just makes everybody happy,” Wright’s sister told citizen journalist outlet Unicorn Riot. “They took my brother away from me. … I’m so hurt, they really just took him. … I still can’t believe it. I’m still feeling like I’m going to go home and see him. It really hurts.”