Daunte Wright: Doting dad, basketball player, slain by police
Daunte Wright became a father while he was still a teenager, and seemed to relish the role of a doting young dad, his family and friends said.
A family photo shows a beaming Wright holding his son, Daunte Jr., at his first birthday party. Another shows Wright, wearing a COVID-19 face mask and his son wearing a bib with the inscription, "ALWAYS HUNGRY."
Wright, 20, was fatally shot Sunday by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. As protesters and civil rights advocates called for justice and police accountability over his death, his family asked people to also remember his life.
"He had a 2-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him. He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much," his mother, Katie Wright, said Tuesday on "Good Morning America."
His aunt, Naisha Wright, said he was "a lovable young man."
"His smile — oh, Lord — the most beautiful smile," she said.
An older cousin, Mario Greer, said he and Wright loved seeing each other on holidays, especially on the Fourth of July, when they liked to shoot off Roman candles together.
Wright attended three different high schools, including Edison High School in Minneapolis, where he was voted "class clown" as a freshman.
Jonathan Mason, who worked as a youth development specialist and mentor at the school, said Wright was a gregarious, popular student who had many friends.
"He was a charismatic kid. He would joke with you, and he was so witty," Mason said. "He was one of those kids that everybody looked up to."
Wright played on the freshman and junior varsity basketball teams, and was known for having a good left-hand shot, Mason said.
During mentoring sessions, Wright would talk about what he hoped to do with his life, Mason said.
"He said, ‘I want to be an NBA player, I want to be a fashion designer, I want to be a business owner,’ " Mason recalled. "I said, ‘If you grow up, you can be whatever you want to be.’"
The two also talked about how Black men should behave during encounters with police, because of the history of Black Americans being shot by police during traffic stops and other encounters.
"I talked about if they pull you over, make sure your hands are on the top of the steering wheel, don’t reach for anything," Mason said. "He would always say, ‘Man, why we gotta do all that just for people not to kill us?’ "
Wright moved to Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis in 2018, where his sister is also a student. Principal Yusuf Abdullah said he left after one semester and then went to Stadium View School.
"We got to know Daunte really well through his sister. Many staff worked with him through the years, trying to build a relationship with him, connect with him," Abdullah said.
He said Daunte wasn’t a difficult kid, but had some of the typical issues of teenagers: "A troubled life? No. I think just along the lines of a teenage life." He wouldn’t elaborate.
"He was a good kid — excitable," he said.
Police have described the shooting of Wright as "an accidental discharge" that happened as officers were trying to arrest Wright on an outstanding warrant after stopping his car for having expired registration tags. Wright’s mother said he called her just before he was shot and told her police had pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.
Police said the officer who shot Wright meant to use her Taser on him, but instead shot him with her service weapon. A prosecutor said Wednesday he charged the officer with second-degree manslaughter,
Police body camera footage showed three officers around the car. When another officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a second officer tells him he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when a struggle begins, followed by the shooting. Then the car travels several blocks before striking another vehicle.
According to court records, Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
A search of court records shows Wright had a minor criminal record, with petty misdemeanor convictions for possession/sale of a small amount of marijuana and disorderly conduct.
After he was killed Sunday, his family learned of a connection between Wright and George Floyd, the Black man whose death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer nearly a year ago sparked nationwide protests. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, said she worked with Wright while he was a student at Edison High School. Ross was a teacher’s assistant and counselor at the school, said Mason, who worked with Ross.
"(I’m) crushed. It’s enough that Floyd is gone, but for one of my youths to be gone as well," Ross said Tuesday during a protest against police brutality in Minneapolis.
"He was just a wonderful, beautiful boy," Ross said.