BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Kelly Bryant arrived for nephew Daunte Wright's viewing this week to find the church guarded by a dozen members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, a Black militia armed with AR-15-style rifles.
It was just a day after a jury had convicted white former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murdering a Black man, George Floyd, 46, last May. The city was still tense as it prepared for Wright's funeral on Thursday. The 20-year-old Black father was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb.
An initial department review found that the officer who shot Wright — Kim Potter — a 26-year veteran of the police force who has since resigned, mistook her gun for a Taser. Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Graphic police body-camera video released after the shooting sparked protests outside the Police Department and calls for Potter to be charged with murder. Officers in riot gear used tear gas and wooden batons in clashes with demonstrators last week. Brooklyn Center's mayor issued a curfew for the city of about 30,000 residents, but lifted it late Wednesday after several peaceful nights.
Bryant, 41, a gas station assistant manager from Hudson, Wisconsin, credited protesters with supporting the family, especially her sister Katie Wright, Daunte Wright's mother.
"They've been by Katie's side this whole time. That means a lot to us," Bryant said after attending Wright's viewing Wednesday. "I felt safe coming in here."
But she added, "I've never been to a funeral with AR-15s."
Bryant and other relatives wore T-shirts bearing a photo of Wright and his namesake 1-year-old son that read, "Justice for Daunte."
"We want justice, for [Potter] to be held accountable," said Bryant's friend Christal Luellen, 40, as she stood with Bryant in the lobby of Shiloh Temple International Ministries in northern Minneapolis, where his funeral was set for noon on Thursday.
"We definitely hope it stays peaceful," Luellen said.