National Guard troops and Minnesota State Patrol officers arrived as reinforcement for local law enforcement. This mass deployment of resources to quell protests, compared to the systems in place that allowed an officer to shoot a man for apparently moving towards his own car, has not gone unnoticed.
The shooting is painfully reminiscent of so many other instances when police officers shot and killed Black Americans. In 2016, Philando Castile was in the car with his girlfriend when he was pulled over by a police officer who later said that they “just look like people that were involved in a robbery.” Castile was shot and killed in his car. The police officer was found not guilty of charges of manslaughter.
In 2015, police officer Michael Slager pulled over Walter Scott for a broken taillight. When Scott got out of his car and tried to run, Slager shot him eight times, then handcuffed him. Scott died, and in a rarity for police shooting cases, Slager pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of 20 years.
That same year, Sandra Bland was pulled over in Southeast Texas by State Trooper Brian Encinia who, footage showed, announced that he was arresting her without clear reason and eventually tried to drag her from the car. She was jailed, and three days later, was found hanging in her cell.
What are elected leaders saying?
“My prayers are with the family. It’s really a tragic thing that happened,” President Biden said on Sunday night, calling for an investigation of the shooting. “There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting, no justification for violence,” he added. “Peaceful protests, understandable, and the fact is that, you know, we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it’s serious and it’s consequential. But it will not justify violence and/or looting,”
The President’s focus on looting instead of the fatal shooting of a Black man at the hands of the police is somewhat surprising, considering how Biden worked to appeal to Black Americans during his campaign. It is thanks to Black voters, who strongly supported the former vice president in the primary and national election, that Biden is president.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, the first Black person to hold that office, had stronger words. “We are all collectively devastated and we have been for over a year now by the killing of George Floyd and that we continue to be distressed as we go through the Derek Chauvin trial,” Elliott said on Monday. “So having a police-involved shooting happen in our community and killing a young man is heartbreaking and just unfathomable.” Elliott tweeted that he spoke to Wright’s father, and “assured him that I will do everything to ensure justice is served.”
What would “justice” mean?
Castile, Slager, Bland, and so many others, were killed while driving. George Floyd was killed shortly after leaving a convenience store. And Breonna Taylor, only 26, was killed while sleeping in her own bed. It begs the question—can Black Americans ever feel safe and protected while police are empowered to stop, question, and even shoot civilians? Even Americans who have seen calls to “defund the police” or “abolish the police” as extreme may consider them more closely now. It’s clear that current levels of reform haven’t been able to stop the regular, repeated killings.
Wright was shot by police at a traffic stop and died. He leaves behind siblings, parents, a girlfriend, and a baby son. Next, the officer who shot him, Potter, will be investigated, and she may be charged with a crime. But many activists are pointing out that the shooting and killing of Black Americans by law enforcement officers is a long-held pattern—the American police force is a modern invention, created to help plantation southern owners keep slaves captive.
For now, Wright’s family and community continue to mourn, and protests continue to build. A GoFundMe has been set up for the family, and Minnesota groups have bail funds that take donations to help release jailed protesters.
“I just need everyone to know that he is much more than this,” Katie Wright wept at a vigil for her son on Monday night. Friends, family, and former teachers spoke of Daunte Wright as a loving, happy person—a person who had his whole life ahead of him.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.