The chain of events that ended with yet another fatal police shooting of a Black man in Minnesota began in what has become a typical tragedy — with a traffic stop for a minor infraction.
The man, Daunte Wright, 20, who died Sunday after a run-in with police in a suburb of Minneapolis, was driving an SUV with expired license plates, and he also ran afoul of a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners and other items from their rearview mirrors.
“He was pulled over for having an expired registration on the vehicle,” Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said Monday, according to NBC News. “When the officer went over, an item hanging from the rearview mirror was spotted.”
It was after that, Gannon said, that the officers discovered that a “gross misdemeanor warrant” for Wright’s arrest had been issued.
Minutes later, a gunshot rang out, and Wright joined the ranks of other Black motorists who have died after having been pulled over by police, a group that include Philando Castile, 32, who was fatally shot in 2016 by a Minneapolis police officer after he was stopped for a broken taillight. His final moments were recorded in a powerful video.
Gannon said Monday that he believes the officer meant to pull a Taser in Sunday’s shooting but instead pulled her service weapon.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial in George Floyd’s death, leaving the Twin Cities on high alert and bracing for more mass demonstrations like those that followed Floyd’s death last year. Wright’s family has hired civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, the lead attorney for Floyd’s family, to represent them, as well.
Crump said: “Daunte Wright is yet another young Black man killed at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve all of us — not just the Whitest among us. As Minneapolis and the rest of the country continue to deal with the tragic killing of George Floyd, now we must also mourn the loss of this young man and father. This level of lethal force was entirely preventable and inhumane.”
Studies have found that Black drivers are far more likely to be stopped by police than White drivers are. Not only that, but once they are stopped, Black people are searched nearly twice as often as White drivers, and the searches are less likely to yield illegal drugs and other contraband than searches of White drivers.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who is Black, said the shooting of Wright was “heartbreaking, unfathomable.”
“Our hearts are aching right now, we are in pain right now, and we recognize this couldn’t happen at a worse time right now,” he said, adding, “We’ve seen this far too many times where a young Black man or woman is pulled over by police or encounters police and they end up dead. People protesting are asking when will this stop.”