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Minnesota Community Reacts To Shooting Of Daunte Wright

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And Nekima Levy Armstrong is with us again. She is a Minneapolis lawyer and activist who told us a few days ago on the program that Derek Chauvin's trial was a kind of trauma for her community. And now Minneapolis absorbs more news. And Ms. Armstrong, it's a pleasure to have you back, a pleasure to hear from you, but it's rather dismaying to have you back for this reason so soon.

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG: Thank you. It is quite distressing.

INSKEEP: Do you believe the basic explanation that police have offered for the shooting last weekend?

LEVY ARMSTRONG: No, I don't. I think it's unfathomable to believe that a 26-year veteran would not know a taser from a handgun. It's unconscionable.

INSKEEP: It is a little hard to believe, although there's the video which we heard, where she's saying taser, taser, taser, and then somehow ends up with a gun.

LEVY ARMSTRONG: Yes, she's saying taser, taser, taser, but a gun feels very different from a taser - not to mention the explanation that Police Chief Tim Gannon gave is that the taser is found in your weak hand as opposed to your strong hand. And so for her to think that she was reaching for a taser with her right hand is also very problematic and difficult to believe. We also know that Daunte Wright was pulled over in the first place, from our perspective, as a result of racial profiling. He was a young Black man driving a nice vehicle.

And the explanation that he gave to his mother, who he was on the phone with at the time that he was being pulled over, was that police were pulling him over because he had an air freshener hanging from his mirror. And we questioned the police chief about that yesterday, and he gave an explanation that, oh, it was a traffic stop. And we questioned him further, and he said, oh, it was expired tags. And then they saw the air freshener hanging from the mirror. We know that if Daunte Wright had been a young white man, none of this would have ever happened.

INSKEEP: Also, I'm kind of missing...

LEVY ARMSTRONG: That makes the situation even worse.

INSKEEP: I'm missing the significance of an air freshener at all. Can you just enlighten me what the theory is?

LEVY ARMSTRONG: Yeah, so under Minnesota law, you're not supposed to have anything obstructing your view, hanging on your mirror.

INSKEEP: OK.

LEVY ARMSTRONG: And Daunte Wright had an air freshener hanging on his mirror. And that's the explanation he gave his mother at the time that he was being pulled over. He was on the phone with her.

INSKEEP: What kinds of responses have you heard from people you've talked with over the past couple of days?

LEVY ARMSTRONG: Of course, people are traumatized once again. People are angry. People are frustrated. And some people are hopeless as a result of this latest tragedy.

INSKEEP: What do you mean by hopeless?

LEVY ARMSTRONG: Well, I have seen mothers who have taken to social media in the Twin Cities, and they've written letters to their sons, and they've talked about how they're unable to protect their sons from the onslaught of police violence that we've seen happen here. And it's heartbreaking for me as a mom and being an attorney and knowing that, you know, our options are limited as far as how we can combat these situations.

INSKEEP: Well, Ms. Armstrong, Ms. Levy Armstrong, we will keep talking, of course, but I hope not in quite this way in the future. Thanks very much for your time.

LEVY ARMSTRONG: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Nekima Levy Armstrong is a lawyer in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.