Not yet 2 years old, Daunte Wright Jr. lost his father to a police shooting in Brooklyn Center this week. Friday, as he grabbed at a microphone while in his grandmother's arms, his mother described her family's uncertain future.
"I never thought in a million years that this would happen," Chyna Whitaker said at a Minneapolis news conference. "Everything is still all just hitting me now. I still haven't really fully understood everything going on right now. I'm just really hurt for my son. He doesn't have his father now. It's kind of stressful on me because I really don't want to do this by myself."
Whitaker's mother, Erica Whitaker, held the toddler and spoke of his slain father, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, as a good dad, someone who was no longer in a relationship with Chyna but who co-parented well, who loved taking his son to the playground and who was "100% involved."
"This is my only grandson," Erica Whitaker said. "He was a preemie. He was one pound, 12 ounces. He's a miracle baby himself. His dad, Daunte, was a very good person. He was attentive. He was there when he was in the NICU for two or three months — he was there with Chyna."
Thomas Bowers, a Dallas-based attorney who is representing Chyna Whitaker and the toddler, said the family seeks justice, but that there isn't just one definition of that.
The family wants second-degree manslaughter charges against Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter to be increased, Bowers said. And they may seek compensation, he said, because that's how the judicial system is set up.
But there are more institutional changes the family hopes come out of his death, Bowers said, from policy changes to a more open discussion about race and policing in America.
"If we've got to weed out bad apples, or we've got to improve training, or we've got to change laws, that's a dialogue every community should be able to have with their police department, with their mayor, with their governor, with the lawmakers that they vote in," Bowers said. "Some of the things we keep doing don't necessarily work. Tearing up your neighborhood is not necessarily going to work. There are probably some other things you can do that will make the powers that be take notice."
Potter shot Wright in a traffic stop Sunday as another officer struggled to handcuff him after realizing he had a warrant stemming from a gross misdemeanor weapons charge. Police said Potter mistakenly fired her gun instead of a Taser.
Wright's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in north Minneapolis.
Reid Forgrave • 612-673-4647