Daunte Wright: 'One of those kids everybody looked up to'

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image copyrightKatie Wright
image caption'I don't care what nobody got to say about him. He was loved.'

A few years ago, high school mentor Jonathan Mason was asked by a young black pupil what he should do if he was ever pulled over by police.

"If they pull you over, make sure your hands are on the top of the steering wheel, don't reach for anything," Mr Mason, speaking to the Associated Press, recalls telling the teenager.

The boy, already jaded from seeing multiple cases of police brutality on the news, replied: "Man, why we gotta do all that just for people not to kill us?"

This week that boy - Daunte Wright - was shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis in Minnesota. He was 20 years old.

The killing of Mr Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday has happened at the same time another police officer, Derek Chauvin, is on trial for murder over the killing of George Floyd last year.

Police said they had stopped Mr Wright for having an expired tag on his car licence plate, but then tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. Family members say he was racially profiled. Bodycam footage showed Mr Wright fleeing from officers after they told him he was being arrested for the warrant.

AP reports that court records show Mr Wright faced allegations from last June that he fled from officers and had a gun without a permit.

Since the shooting the officer who killed Mr Wright, Kim Potter, has resigned and been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Police have said she meant to taser Mr Wright, but accidentally pulled out and fired her handgun.

'A lovable young man'

According to friends and family, Mr Wright was a doting father to his young son.

In a family photo circulated after his death, he sits with his toddler on his knee, celebrating his first birthday.

"He had a two-year-old son that's not going to be able to play basketball with him," his mother Katie Wright told Good Morning America on Tuesday. "He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much."

media captionProtests continue for the fourth night over Daunte Wright's death

As soon as she heard about the shooting, Mr Wright's aunt Naisha Wright travelled from Alabama to Minnesota to grieve with the rest of the family.

She said he had been "a lovable young man", and remembered "his smile - oh, Lord - the most beautiful smile".

"My nephew was 20 years old," she told reporters. "I don't care what nobody got to say about him. He was loved. This is no broken home."

'One of those kids everybody looked up to'

According to AP, Mr Wright went to three different high schools as a teenager. At one of these - Edison High School in Minneapolis - he was voted "class clown".

His mentor Mr Mason told the news agency that Mr Wright was "a charismatic kid".

"He would joke with you, and he was so witty," he said. "He was one of those kids that everybody looked up to."

Mr Wright was a talented basketball player when he was in high school, and used to tell Mr Mason that he wanted to play for the NBA.

"I said, 'If you grow up, you can be whatever you want to be'," Mr Mason said.

In 2018 he moved to Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, where his sister is also a pupil. After one term there he moved again to Stadium View School.

Patrick Henry Headmaster Yusuf Abdullah told AP that staff at the school had got to know Mr Wright "really well" through his sister.

"A troubled life? No. I think just along the lines of a teenage life," he said, without giving more details.

'Our system doesn't serve kids like Daunte'

After he was killed, Mr Wright's aunt Naisha Wright told reporters that he was connected closely to George Floyd.

Mr Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross, a teaching assistant and counsellor, had taught Mr Wright when he was a pupil at Edison High School.

The killing of Mr Floyd by police officers last year sparked global protests, and galvanised the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement.

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Naisha Wright was wearing a T-shirt with Mr Floyd's picture on it above the word "Justice", when she revealed the connection.

"I wear this shirt and the craziest thing is to find out today that my family has connections to this man, to this family," she said, gesturing to her shirt. "His girlfriend was the teacher for my nephew."

Ms Ross confirmed the connection to The Washington Post, telling the newspaper that Mr Wright had been a "silly boy, as goofy as can be" who had "needed a lot of love".

image copyrightReuters
image captionCourteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend, said Daunte was "as goofy as can be"

She added that she had last seen Mr Wright when she and Mr Floyd were walking through Brooklyn Center in the summer of 2019. Mr Wright was being confronted by police at the time.

"Students like Daunte needed more resources but they never got more resources," she said. "Our system doesn't serve kids like Daunte. And now I'm seeing, more than ever, this system I once believed in, we're done doing what we need to be doing to protect black life."

On Tuesday, Ms Ross told a crowd of anti-racist protesters that she had been "crushed" by the news of Mr Wright's death.

"It's enough that Floyd is gone, but for one of my youths to be gone as well," she said. "He was just a wonderful, beautiful boy."

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