Monday, April 4, was a somber day for Minnesota activist Toshira Garraway as she reflected on the police killing of Daunte Wright. It was the one-year anniversary of Wright’s death, and she had just gotten home from a candle vigil in his honor when her night erupted in chaos.
Garraway received a call from her frantic 16-year-old son saying that police had detained him. It reminded her of the last call Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright told Garraway she received the same day last year.
“My son was like, ‘Mom, please come. Please come. Where are you, Mom?’ and my heart dropped,” she said.
The mother said Justin Teigen Jr. and three younger children were walking home from McDonald’s when Maplewood Police officers surrounded the group. Garraway said her son called her in tears.
“It was not even curfew. It was 7:45ish,” Garraway said. “They then handcuffed the kids and put them in the back of their squad cars and detained them for almost two hours because they said they heard gunshots in the area. And told the kids they were going down for it.”
Garraway and her friend, Tiffany Burns, rushed to the scene and demanded that the officers release her son and the other children, ages 10, 11 and 12. Burns captured the incident on a Facebook Live video.
The video starts with one of the officers telling Garraway to provide the children’s names and addresses, and then they would be released. Garraway refused to give the officer the children’s personal information.
“No, y’all not putting my baby name in y’all system,” Garraway said.
“I promise you’re gonna have a lawsuit on y’all hands,” Garraway added. “You falsely put my child in that car, and y’all handcuff my baby. Go find who y’all looking for. It’s probably some white kids running around this motherf—— that was shooting, and y’all put our kids in the back of the car.”
A furious Garraway continued to call out the officers for mistreating the children in a manner she believed they would mimic with their own children.
“Got dogs and shit …. don’t do that shit to your motherf***ing kids. My baby wrist hurting and shit.”
“Where the f*ck do ya’ll leave at? Do y’all do that shit to y’all kids where y’all live at?”
Garraway continued to scold officers and insisted that all the children be released.
“They asked the children if ‘they knew where the guns were?'” Garraway told Atlanta Black Star.
Garraway said the other parent was already on the scene begging the officers to release her child, but Garraway found courage and put her “fear out the window.”
“These people have hurt too many people’s kids. These people have left too many mothers in disarray,” Garraway said. “Yeah, we have to show up like that. We have to be fearless. Otherwise they’ll keep killing our kids.”
Wright was killed about 18 miles from Maplewood in Brooklyn Center during a traffic stop in 2021. A white Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kimberly Ann Potter was convicted on manslaughter charges on Dec. 23 and sentenced to two years in prison.
Maplewood Police did not respond to Atlanta Black Star’s request for comment on Tuesday, however, Lt. Joe Steiner, public information officer for the department, addressed the incident during a media briefing later that day. He said the officers believed they had probable cause to detain the minors.
Steiner said a business owner reported seeing four children outside near their business and hearing gunshots. When officers arrived, they detained Justin and his three friends. Steiner said the officers detained the children for about 40 minutes, 20 minutes of which they were handcuffed and in squad cars.
Steiner said after the officers spoke to the business owner and saw the footage they realized that they had detained the wrong children. He showed part of the footage to reporters where four children were walking through grass when the gunfire sparks. Steiner said it’s not uncommon for police to detain the wrong person while they complete an investigation.
“Our officers acted very professionally and how we would expect them to act,” Steiner said “We’re proud of the work and the response on this incident. They didn’t do anything wrong. We do take every incident that we respond to seriously, especially crimes of violence and shots fired.”
Garraway and attorneys went to the police department on Tuesday to look at all of footage. She wants them to release the body-worn camera that shows how the children were treated and how long they were really detained.
On Monday, Garraway, Burns and the other mother did not leave the scene filled with police cars and a K-9 unit until all of the children were released. One of the children broke into tears as soon the officers removed the handcuffs. The third woman consoled her. Garraway said her son was inconsolable when he got home.
Garraway told the officers that the incident would re-traumatize the children. She said her son was still “terrified” from the ordeal on Tuesday afternoon. Two of her son’s friends died in September when they took a ride from a driver who ended up in a high-speed chase with Maplewood Police.
Garraway and Burns know the trauma all too well. Garraway leads a support group for families who have lost loved ones to police brutality and has stood with the families of George Floyd, Philando Castile and Jamar Clark.
Burns is Clark’s sister. Minneapolis Police officers fatally shot him in 2015. None of the officers involved have been charged. The Minneapolis City Council agreed to pay Clark’s family a $200,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit in 2019.
Garraway has been rallying for justice for her fiancé Justin Teigen for 11 years. She said St. Paul police officers beat Teigen and threw him in a dumpster. St. Paul police have denied the claims.
“These people threw a bunch of kids in a car, harassed and targeted the kids when they already murdered my son’s father here in Minnesota,” she said.
A St. Paul police spokesperson said in 2020 that Teigen was hiding from police in a dumpster, and “he died when he was crushed after a garbage truck picked up the dumpster and drove away.”
On Friday, Garraway attended a protest against prosecutors’ decision not to file charges against the Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Amir Locke. Garraway and Burns organized a protest against Maplewood Police to demand justice and condemn their actions on Tuesday afternoon. They plan to do another on Wednesday. It will be her late fiancé’s birthday.
“I am hurting,” Garraway said.