MINNEAPOLIS — Just days after guilty verdicts were handed down for the former Minneapolis police officer whose killing of George Floyd set off nationwide protests and a reckoning over racism, the family of another Black man killed by police, this time in a nearby suburb, is preparing for his Thursday funeral.
Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday at Shiloh Temple International Ministries for the public viewing for 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a father of one shot by a police officer on April 11 during a traffic stop in the small city of Brooklyn Center.
Friends and family members wept as they stood before Wright’s open casket, which was blanketed with red roses. Inside the open casket, the young man was dressed in a jean jacket bedazzled with several red and green gem-like buttons on the lapels.
An obituary handed out at the memorial recalled Wright’s love of Fourth of July fireworks, the “lemon head” nickname bestowed by an aunt and the months he spent in a hospital intensive care unit when his son was born prematurely.
The city’s police chief said it appeared from body camera video that the officer who shot Wright used her pistol when she meant to use her Taser. The white officer, 26-year veteran Kim Potter, is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both she and the chief resigned soon after the shooting.
Wright’s killing came amid increasing tension during the weekslong trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer who killed Floyd last May. By the day of the verdict, more than 3,000 National Guard soldiers had flooded the area, along with police, state troopers and other law enforcement officers. Concrete barriers, chain-link fences and barbed wire ringed the courthouse where Chauvin was tried.
More than a dozen men from the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, many with assault-style rifles, sidearms and wearing body armor, provided security for the service.
Minneapolis residents who peacefully celebrated Tuesday’s guilty verdicts had barely one full day before attention turned to burying Wright.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader, will deliver the eulogy. At Floyd’s Minneapolis funeral last year, Sharpton put Floyd’s death in the context of brutality long felt by Blacks in America, saying: “The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck.”
“What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country,” Sharpton said back then. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our neck!’”
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Sharpton said he would first pay tribute to Wright, “a young man just at the beginning of life, full of life.”
He said he will also use his remarks to remind those in attendance, or watching from afar, that the fight for justice didn’t end with the Chauvin verdict.
“We should not think that, because we won one battle with Chauvin, the war is over,” Sharpton said, “or that if we do not get justice for this case, that we will undo what we were able to do with George Floyd. This is round two, and we must win this round.”
Members of Wright’s family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, are also expected to speak at the service. Some of Floyd’s relatives are expected to attend.
Wright’s killing set off protests in Brooklyn Center, a working-class, majority nonwhite city, with hundreds of people gathering every night for a week outside the city’s heavily guarded police station. While the mayor called for law enforcement and protesters to scale back their tactics, the nights often ended with demonstrators lobbing water bottles and rocks at the officers, and law enforcement responding with pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Wright was pulled over on a Sunday afternoon. His mother said he called her to say he was stopped for having air fresheners hanging from his rear-view mirror — a traffic violation in Minnesota. Police said he was stopped for having an expired car registration.
The shooting occurred when a scuffle broke out as police tried to arrest Wright, after realizing he had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court on charges of fleeing police and having a gun without a permit.
Associated Press writer Tim Sullivan contributed. Morrison is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of Daunte Wright at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright
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