By Nathan Layne
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Mourners gathered at a Minneapolis church on Wednesday to view the body of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man whose fatal shooting by a police officer in a nearby suburb set off protests that had cast a shadow over the trial for the death of George Floyd.
The public viewing comes as activists against racism and police violence celebrate the guilty verdict delivered on Tuesday to Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Floyd. But Wright's death in the middle of the three-week trial has dampened the mood.
Wright, who was shot on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota following a routine traffic stop, lay in a white, open casket covered in red roses, with a large screen behind him showing videos and pictures of his family and friends. He was survived by a two-year-old son.
"It's horrible. I feel sadness. I feel like my heart was tore out of my chest," his aunt, Kristie Bryant, said after viewing his casket at the Shiloh Temple International Ministries, the same church where his funeral will be held on Thursday.
"I was really close to him when he was young," said Bryant, a 39-year-old resident of nearby St. Paul. "He loved basketball. He loved his son with all of his heart."
The shooting of Wright set off more than a week of demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters that turned violent at times, with some protesters hurling objects and the police using tear gas and less-lethal rounds.
Kimberly Potter, who resigned from the police department after the incident, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Potter has not entered a plea and her lawyer, Earl Gray, has not commented about the case.
Police video of the shooting shows multiple officers attempting to arrest Wright for an outstanding warrant. The video then shows Potter threatening to stun Wright with her Taser before firing her handgun. She can be heard saying she shot him a few moments later. Former Police Chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned, said Potter mistakenly used her gun instead of her Taser.
"When you watch that video your conscience tells you it is the right thing to do to stand up for Daunte Wright, to speak up for Daunte Wright, and to fight for Daunte Wright," Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the Wright family, said at the viewing.
Crump helped the Floyd family sue the city of Minneapolis, resulting in a $27 million settlement that he has called the largest pre-trial settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. history.
(This story corrects spelling of Wright's name in penultimate paragraph)
(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Octavio Jones in Minneapolis; Editing by Aurora Ellis)