Minneapolis funeral of Black man shot by police draws hundreds of mourners
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Hundreds of mourners filed into a Minneapolis church on Thursday for the funeral of Daunte Wright, a Black man whose shooting by police after a routine traffic stop has raised fresh concerns over the way police officers treat people of color.
Wright, 20, who was shot by a white police officer in a Minneapolis suburb on April 11, is being laid to rest two days after a Minneapolis jury found a white police officer guilty of murdering George Floyd last May, a killing that triggered worldwide protests for racial justice.
While the conviction brought a measure of satisfaction to people calling for an end to brutality and racism in policing, Wright’s death served as a reminder of the daily risks facing Black people during encounters with police.
On Thursday, Wright lay in a white casket at center of church, covered in red roses. Three large screens near the altar displayed pictures of the young man in different stages in his life. An organist played gospel music as ushers escorted mourners – some wearing T-shirts that read “Justice 4 Daunte Wright,” to their seats.
Among the attendees at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, a church with a predominantly Black congregation, were family members, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, who represents the congressional district encompassing Minneapolis and some of its suburbs. A number of high-profile civil rights activists, as well as family and friends were expected to attend.
“Daunte was a warm and loving person who would do anything for his family and friends,” a prayer card handed out to funeral attendees read. “He was a beloved son, a loving father to his two-year old son, an adored brother and role model, especially to his younger sister, Destinee.”
He was a talented basketball player and he particularly loved the Fourth of July, when he would celebrate with his family by lighting fireworks, the prayer card said.
The Reverend Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy, as he did at George Floyd’s funeral last year.
“DEEP, SYSTEMIC RACISM”
The governor on Thursday issued a proclamation calling on residents of the state to honor two minutes of silence at the start of the funeral, saying Wright’s death was connected to the “deep, systemic racism” faced daily by Black people.
“While nothing can bring Daunte Wright back to his loved ones, we must continue to work to enact real, meaningful change at the local, state, and national levels to fight systemic racism so that every person in Minnesota – Black, Indigenous, Brown, or White – can be safe and thrive,” Walz said.
At a public viewing on Wednesday, Wright’s aunt, Kristie Bryant, described him as a doting father to his two-year-old son, who he “loved with all his heart.” She said Wright was always smiling.
“I feel sadness. I feel like my heart was tore out of my chest,” Bryant said after viewing Wright in an open, white casket covered in red roses.
Police video of the shooting in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shows multiple officers attempting to arrest Wright for an outstanding warrant during a routine traffic stop. It then shows Officer Kimberly Potter threatening to stun Wright with her Taser before firing her handgun. A few moments later, she can be heard exclaiming that she shot him. Before he resigned, the city’s police chief Tim Gannon said Potter mistakenly used her gun instead of her Taser.
Potter, who also resigned after the incident, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Potter has not entered a plea and her lawyer, Earl Gray, has not commented about the case.
The shooting of Wright set off more than a week of demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters that turned violent at times, with some protesters hurling objects and the police using tear gas and less-lethal rounds.
“When you watch that video your conscience tells you it is the right thing to do to stand up for Daunte Wright, to speak up for Daunte Wright, and to fight for Daunte Wright,” Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the Wright family, said at the viewing on Wednesday.
Crump is also scheduled to deliver remarks at the funeral.
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