MINNEAPOLIS — Mourners including Minnesota's top political leaders filled a north Minneapolis church on April 22 to honor the life of a 20-year-man killed by Brooklyn Center police, and to demand justice.
The funeral for Daunte Demetrius Wright filled the Shiloh Temple International Ministries with friends, family and others who have had loved ones killed by police including relatives of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and Oscar Grant.
National civil rights leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, delivered the eulogy for the 20-year-old father, noting that some compared Wright's funeral procession to that of Prince.
"We came to bury the prince of Brooklyn Center. We came from all over the country because you hurt one of our princes," Sharpton said. "You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener. He was a prince. All of Minneapolis has stopped today to honor the prince of Brooklyn Center."
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Wright family, led a call and response with mourners, saying repeatedly," Daunte Wright's life mattered."
Addressing Wright's parents, Crump said, "Katie and Aubrey, our heart is broken with yours as we come to lay him to rest. Most importantly, we celebrate his life and we define his legacy."
"As we make the pleas for justice in the court of public opinion, we pray Attorney General Keith Ellison will allow us to get full justice in the court of law," Crump said.
Mourners including Ellison, Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott began to stream into the church around noon. Large photos of the smiling young man flanked his white coffin, which was covered in dozens of red roses. A band played Gospel music.
Outside, outreach workers and armed Minnesota Freedom Fighters surrounded Wright's parents, who held hands as they entered the temple alongside Sharpton. A swarm of photographers from international media organizations jostled and craned their necks for a photo of the grieving family.
Proclamation from governor
Dressed up in all white and in the arms of a relative, 1-year-old Daunte Jr., Wright's son, looked wide-eyed at the more than 100 people crowded outside the north Minneapolis building.
Traffic moved slowly down W. Broadway Avenue, where a lane was blocked off for the funeral procession. A man and woman wearing sweatshirts with Wright's face on them paused for a minute, looked at the hearse, then continued walking down the block.
Walz issued a proclamation the morning of April 22 calling for a statewide moment of silence during the first two minutes of Wright's funeral, from noon to 12:02 p.m.
"Daunte Wright was beloved by his family, neighbors and community, and had his entire young life ahead of him. We mourn the loss of Daunte Wright, and as a state we offer our deepest condolences to the Wright family," the proclamation read.
"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."
Wright's funeral comes just two days after people poured into Minneapolis streets to rejoice for the state's first-ever murder conviction of a white police officer for the killing a Black man.
Wright was shot and killed by a former Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop on April 11. Wright's killing by police during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, now convicted of the murder of George Floyd, sparked days of protests, civil unrest and dozens of arrests in the suburb of 31,000.
Wright's family said he had left the house with his girlfriend, heading to the car wash. Wright phoned his mother moments before the deadly encounter, telling her he believed police were stopping him for having an air freshener hanging next to the windshield. Police later said he was stopped for expired tabs.
The city's police chief said it appeared from body camera video that the officer who shot Wright used her handgun when she meant to use her Taser.
Second-degree manslaughter charge
Former Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, faces one charge of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Wright. She has resigned from the department.
On April 21, family and friends gathered for Wright's wake. Wright was born on Oct. 27, 2000, in St. Paul and raised in Minneapolis from the time he was 7.
Wright was "taken from his family and friends too soon and leaves a hole in their heart that will never be filled," his obituary read.
Wright played center for the basketball team at Edison High School with the No. 23 jersey, his favorite number.
"He was a star athlete," according to his obituary, which described him as a "jokester" and "a warm and loving person who would do anything for his family and friends."
He loved the Fourth of July, sharing good times with his family and his son, whom he spent months with in intensive care when he was born four months prematurely in 2019.
Wright was raised in an interracial family full of "harmony and love," and a police officer stole that from them, Sharpton said.
The deadly encounter has devastated this loving family, Sharpton said.
"You brought hate into their families and we will run it out and get them justice," he said.
Sharpton said when Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd's murder on April 20, he couldn't help but think about what happened in Brooklyn Center.
"People celebrated all over the country," he said, "As I was crying, the thing that bothered me was right down the road was Daunte Wright. … Don't tell us what you did for George Floyd and ignore what happened to Daunte Wright. … We're going to get Wright right in Minnesota."