Another young Black man is dead at the hands of police, this time in Brooklyn Center. And we are left angry and grieving that a traffic stop ended in another senseless loss of life.
More protests from a community that has had to grieve far too many such losses. More rioting. More confrontations with police. Another hashtag.
It shouldn't have been this way. Daunte Wright, 20, went for a car wash on Sunday afternoon, his girlfriend beside him. He got pulled over by Brooklyn Center police for expired license tabs. Many drivers have expired tabs at this point in the pandemic. Police noted he had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. That's a violation, but one shared by many drivers whose mirrors bear similar fresheners.
Wright also was found to have a warrant for a gross misdemeanor. That is higher cause for concern, but still not justification for what followed.
An officer was attempting to handcuff Wright when Wright suddenly wriggled free and struggled to get back into the car. A female officer can then be heard shouting "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before she shoots Wright point-blank. As the car moves away, the officer says, "Holy shit, I just shot him." Mortally wounded at the wheel, Wright was unable to control the car, which crashed, injuring his girlfriend.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who showed the body camera footage of the incident at a Monday news conference, said he believed it was "an accidental discharge" — that the officer intended to fire her Taser, not her gun.
It's critical to note that the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, not Gannon, is in charge of the investigation. And, Monday afternoon, the Brooklyn Center City Council voted to give Mayor Mike Elliott "command authority" over the police. That's the right move.
The community must have every confidence that investigators will, in Elliott's words, "get to the bottom of this" and provide needed answers. Elliott, who fired the city manager on Monday, said he thought the officer should be "released from her duties." Given that she is, in Gannon's words, "a very senior officer" who nevertheless apparently failed to distinguish between her gun and Taser, that seems appropriate.
Brooklyn Center police have killed six people since 2012, according to Star Tribune reporting, and five of the six were men of color. But this issue is not limited to Brooklyn Center. Or Minneapolis, where the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd for more than nine minutes is now on trial for Floyd's death.
The entire nation has scars from the death of Black men killed in interactions with police. But the pain coursing through this community right now is almost unimaginable. It must find its outlet somewhere. Protests and vigils not only should be allowed, but protected.
What cannot happen, though, is a second night of destruction of property that ranged far beyond Brooklyn Center late Sunday and early Monday. There is a difference between protest, even angry protest, and wanton destruction and looting.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, speaking earlier on Monday, said that "those responsible" for Wright's death must be held accountable. But, he added, "you cannot honor the memory of George Floyd, of Daunte Wright, by wreaking havoc in the communities they called home."
We are all — police, elected officials, advocates and community members alike — tasked with navigating the search for justice, the push for accountability, and with ensuring "that our communities cannot be destroyed," Carter said.
That is a daunting task indeed, but so vital. Katie Wright, hours after learning of her son's death and grappling with the kind of suffering only a mother can know, urged calm. "We want justice for Daunte," she said. "We don't want it to be all about this violence."
Opportunistic rioters and looters cannot be allowed to eclipse this moment, to take our focus off where it should be: doing everything possible to ensure just, fair, respectful law enforcement.