The mother of a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by Minnesota police this week says it all started when police pulled her son over for having air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.
How, some might ask, can air fresheners be the basis for a traffic stop? The answer: Minnesota is one of a number of states with laws that prohibit drivers from hanging objects from their rearview mirrors on the grounds that the items could obstruct their view.
The laws have led to vehement complaints from civil rights advocates who say police can use them as a pretext for stopping Black motorists.
Daunte Wright was pulled over Sunday by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. Police said he was stopped for having expired car registration tags, but Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said he called her just before he was shot and said he’d been pulled over because of the air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.
Police tried to arrest Wright after realizing he was wanted on an outstanding warrant. In the ensuing scuffle, Officer Kim Potter shot him. The city’s police chief, who resigned Tuesday, said he believed Potter meant to fire her Taser, not her gun.
Potter, who also resigned, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
HOW MANY STATES PROHIBIT DRIVERS FROM HANGING OBJECTS FROM THEIR MIRRORS AND WINDSHIELDS?
At least five other states — California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas and Illinois — have such laws, but the total number is unclear. The National Conference of State Legislatures does not track such legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has sharply criticized such traffic stops, was unsure how many states allow them.