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Why Did the Police Kill 20-Year-Old Daunte Wright?

Protests escalated in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota on Sunday after police shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center. The incident hit hard in a community already under enormous scrutiny during the trial of Derek Chauvin, whose killing of George Floyd ignited the global Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020.

Wright’s mother Katie spoke to reporters hours after her son’s death, saying that her son had been pulled over for having an air freshener hanging on the rearview mirror of the car she’d given him to drive. “He got out of the car and his girlfriend said [the police] shot him,” Wright said during an emotional speech. “He got back in the car and crashed. And now he’s dead on the ground since 1:47.”

Katie Wright said her son’s girlfriend was in the car with him when it crashed.

Protests escalated throughout the day and into the evening, with demonstrators clashing with police in riot gear. As the protests continued into the early Monday hours, Wright’s mother called for calm.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Brooklyn Center police confirmed that they had pulled a motorist over for a traffic violation, and said that the driver had an outstanding warrant. The police account differed from Mrs. Wright’s, saying that police fired into the car only after the younger Wright re-entered the vehicle. It was not clear why police fired at Wright.

Brooklyn Center Community School’s Superintendent Carly Baker said all classes will be conducted online Monday. “We are focused on taking steps in the moment. I haven’t entirely processed the tragedy that took place in our community and I’m prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, staff members and community members,” Baker said in a statement. “We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process.”

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