As part of JLI’s response to Daunte Wright’s killing by a Brooklyn Center police officer on Sunday, April 11th, Inequality Inquiry has compiled relevant news and legal-adjacent updates from the Twin Cities metro area. In keeping with JLI’s mission to highlight how the law perpetuates systemic exploitation, oppression, and discrimination, we hope to provide resources that enable readers to understand and engage with current events.
- The trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd entered its third week. Both the prosecution and the defense have finished presenting evidence. Closing arguments are expected to take place on Monday, April 19th. The trial so far has included testimony from several current and former MPD officers, including current Chief Medaria Arradondo, all of whom condemned Chauvin’s actions on May 25, 2020 as against MPD policy. While it’s relatively rare for officers to testify against a fellow officer, some speculate that the reason so many officers have been willing to testify against Chauvin is to further the narrative of Floyd’s killing as an individual instance of wrongdoing, rather than a result of a systemic issue with policing. Chauvin himself will not testify in the case, invoking the protection of the Fifth Amendment.
- On April 11th, Kimberly Potter, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. The Brooklyn Center police chief claimed Potter mistook her gun for a Taser. Potter, who was the head of the BCPD’s union, resigned from her position on April 13th. Wright is the sixth person and fifth man of color killed by BCPD since 2012. The department’s policy manual is written by a private company, Lexipol, which sells policies it drafts to police departments across the country. Lexipol’s policies have been criticized for being overly vague, giving police officers increased legal cover when they are accused of committing acts of violence. The traffic stop that led to Wright’s murder is an example of what’s been called “jackpot policing”–where large numbers of people are pulled over for small violations in the hopes of a “payout” in the form of a discovery of drugs or guns. This kind of policing is not only ripe for racial profiling, but has violent and tragic consequences. Philando Castile, who was killed during a traffic stop by a police officer in the Falcon Heights suburb of St. Paul in 2016, had been pulled over 49 times in 13 years for minor infractions.
- On April 14th, it was announced that Potter will be charged with second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s killing. In Minnesota, one is guilty of second-degree manslaughter when they cause the death of another through their own culpable negligence, “whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Potter’s case is being handled by Washington County Attorney Pete Orput. The transfer of the case from Hennepin to Washington County is a practice county attorneys in the Twin Cities metropolitan area adopted last year in cases of killings by police. Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot, along with some activists, have asked for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to instead handle the case.
- In response to protests over Wright’s killing and the ongoing Chauvin trial, Gov. Walz, along with Mayors Frey and Carter, announced a curfew in Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota and Anoka counties starting at 7 pm on April 12th. The imposition of the curfew called to mind similar measures taken during the protests over George Floyd’s death this summer. Walz said that the “largest police presence in Minnesota history” would enforce the curfew. In the same press conference, the governor also called on the Minnesota legislature to pass policing reform measures. Curfews in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center, and several other suburbs were extended on April 13th, with most starting at 10 pm. On April 14th, most cities in the area declined to extend curfews, with the exception of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, and Champlin.
- Despite the curfews, community members protested Wright’s killing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, and were met with police and National Guard troops in riot gear. Police responded to protestors with flash-bangs, “less-lethal” munitions, and tear gas (despite an ordinance passed on Monday afternoon that banned the use of chemical irritants). Some tear gas canisters landed on the doorsteps of nearby apartments, where residents shouted that children were inside. According to law enforcement, about 124 people have been arrested in Brooklyn Center over the last three nights, on charges ranging from unlawful assembly to rioting. Militarized police and national guard troops remain stationed in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities, despite the fact that no significant protests have taken place outside Brooklyn Center the last few nights.
If you plan to protest, know your rights and keep the Legal Rights Center’s jail support hotline number handy: (612) 444-2654. If you’d like to help Brooklyn Center community members, the Sahan Journal has published this helpful guide.
*University of Minnesota Law School, 2022 J.D. Candidate