ACLU of Minnesota Statement on Police Killing of Daunte Wright
Police killed Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center Sunday afternoon. Yet another Black life was taken by those sworn to protect, and we join the community in mourning Wright’s loss.
Initial details are troubling to the ACLU of Minnesota. Wright’s mother told several news outlets that she was on the phone with her son when he was pulled over for having a dangling air freshener on his car window. She said they asked him to get out of the car, but wouldn’t say why. Then she heard scuffling and gunshots.
Brooklyn Center Police said in a press release that they’d pulled Wright over for a traffic stop, learned he had an outstanding warrant, and that he re-entered the vehicle while they were trying to take him into custody. One officer shot Wright, whose vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle. He died at the scene.
The ACLU of Minnesota calls for an immediate, transparent and independent investigation by an outside agency other than the Brooklyn Center Police or the BCA, and for the quick release of any body-cam footage. We call for the naming of all officers and agencies involved. The ACLU-MN has deep concerns that police here appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do all too often to target Black people. The warrant appears to be for a non-felony.
While we are waiting to learn more, we must reiterate that police violence and killings of people of color must end, as must the over-policing and racial profiling that are endemic to our white supremacist system of policing.
Police shootings are always tragic, and the situation here is made even more worse by this happening during a trial seeking justice for George Floyd.
The ACLU of Minnesota is watching, and we will keep working to hold police accountable.
UPDATED STATEMENT BELOW
Please attribute to ACLU of Minnesota Chief Programs Officer Ben Feist:
The ACLU of Minnesota shares in the grief and outrage of our community over Sunday’s shooting death of yet another Black man by police. We want to make it clear that Daunte Wright should be alive today, and just like George Floyd and Philando Castile, Wright is one of the countless Black men who would still be with their families and communities had police simply issued a citation.
Police making traffic stops and performing custodial arrests for low-level infractions, which disproportionately target people of color, are dangerous, racist and unnecessary practices that don’t aid public safety, but instead result in predictable violence and death for Black men like Daunte Wright, and require change on the local, state and national level.
In Brooklyn Center, the ACLU of Minnesota joins the national ACLU in calling on Mayor Mike Elliott, Chief of Police Tim Gannon, and City Manager Curt Boganey to immediately and unequivocally end traffic enforcement by armed police officers; and to halt the practice of allowing their officers to make custodial arrests and use force for misdemeanor offenses, and instead to issue citations and summons. The city must keep this policy in place until there’s a complete and transparent investigation of Wright’s death that results in recommendations focused on justice and accountability for his family and community, and on systemic fixes that will reduce the risk of additional unnecessary violence, death and tragedy for other families of color in Brooklyn Center.
We call for that investigation to be done by an outside agency other than the Brooklyn Center Police, the BCA, or any County Attorney’s Office; the quick release of all body-cam footage; and the naming of all officers and agencies involved.
While the police chief said he believes the officer mistakenly reached for her gun rather than a taser, regardless of weapon, it was an unnecessary use of deadly force that killed Wright over a low-level offense.
We urge police to respond calmly to protests, and to avoid the use of chemical irritants and projectiles. Protests against police violence should not be met with police violence.
The four-county curfew called by the governor and a number of mayors for 7 p.m. is not productive. Curfews disproportionately affect Black, Brown, refugee and immigrant communities who are already over-policed and disproportionately harmed by police violence. While we share the goal of ensuring the safety and welfare of all persons and businesses in the Twin Cities, we do not believe this protection must come at the expense of our constitutional freedoms, and urge elected officials to balance these interests with the rights of lawful protesters.
At a statewide level, we urge lawmakers to renew the push to reform qualified immunity, and institute other meaningful measures that allow us to hold police truly accountable.
It is way past time for police violence and killings of people of color to end, as must the over-policing and racial profiling that are endemic to our white supremacist system of policing. The ACLU of Minnesota is watching and will keep working to hold police accountable.
NOTE: Mike Elliott has taken a leave of absence from the ACLU-MN board of directors; he became a director before seeking office.
The ACLU of Minnesota also asked Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate, charge, and prosecute the Brooklyn Center police officer involved in killing Daunte Wright. This letter is here: https://www.aclu-mn.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/2021_04_13_l…
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