One year after Daunte Wright’s murder, his family continues to fight for justice | national news

MINNEAPOLIS — As Katie Wright prepared to celebrate the life of her son killed by a Brooklyn Center police officer, she paused to reflect on how much she had changed since that fatal traffic stop last year.

“You go from mother to warrior. I literally feel like Xena,” she said, referring to the warrior princess in the hit fantasy TV series. “I wasn’t an activist before that – I’m a store manager. … But when your child is taken by someone who is supposed to serve and protect, you have a fight and a fire burning inside. you.”

Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old son, father and brother, was shot and killed by then-officer Kimberly Potter on April 11, 2021. The shooting sparked violent protests and peaceful marches, criminal charges and a widely followed trial.

It also planted an advocacy seed within Katie Wright — who also goes by her last name, Bryant — to push for policy changes and start a nonprofit.

The Wrights’ path to justice appeared to open when the jury found Potter guilty on two counts of manslaughter in December for shooting Wright as she intended to draw her Taser. When Judge Regina Chu sentenced Potter to two years in prison – well below state guidelines – Aubrey Wright said the struggle over the loss of her son became much harder to bear.

“Conviction lets us know the fight is not over,” he said. “I think we got robbed. I talked to Daunte, like, ‘We’re going to do you justice.'”

Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was seeking a seven-year sentence for Potter, said in a statement that he accepted Chu’s judgment and asked everyone else to do the same. But the Wrights are asking for a call – the last fight in a year full of battles.

Jeff Storms, a member of the legal team representing the Wrights with Florida attorney Ben Crump, said Ellison has until the end of May to appeal. This decision rests solely with the Attorney General.

“If he chooses not to appeal the case, the family has no other recourse at this point,” Storms said. “This is not a situation where we could step in as private lawyers and appeal the sentence.”

Storms said the legal team is still considering a civil lawsuit — which could be financially overwhelming for Brooklyn Center and its ratepayers — but he wouldn’t comment on the status of that case. Meanwhile, he said the family continues to advocate for changes to Brooklyn Center policing, statewide and nationally.

“I think the family really showed the whole country how much (Daunte) meant to them,” he said. “I think their love for him is really reflected in how hard they’ve fought for him and other people since he was killed.”

Brooklyn Center police arrested Wright while he was driving a vehicle with expired plates. The criminal complaint says Wright initially complied but then tried to escape and get back behind the wheel of the car when told he was under arrest for a warrant.

Potter testified that in the chaos of the moment, she mistakenly pulled out her service weapon instead of her Taser. In the body camera footage, he can be heard shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before shooting and killing Wright.

The Wright family, along with the family of Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old autistic man shot dead by Brooklyn Center police in 2019, defended a public safety resolution passed by the city council in May to begin 1.3 million dollars in police reform initiatives.

This resolution made its way to Evanston, Illinois, where it was included in that city’s quest to reinvent public safety. “It’s one of the ideas that people in the city want to pursue,” Mayor Daniel Biss said.

Downtown Brooklyn Mayor Mike Elliott said an implementation committee including Katie Wright and Amity Dimock, Dimock-Heisler’s mother, is currently working on policies to ban no-knock warrants and pretext traffic stops. A policy passed in September calls for officers to write citations and release, rather than arrest, low-level offenders.

Controversy surrounding no-knock warrants grew again after Amir Locke was murdered in February by Minneapolis police executing a no-knock warrant during a pre-dawn raid. Locke, who was not the subject of the warrant, was shot.

“I am heartbroken by Daunte’s murder,” Elliott said. “But I’m also very encouraged by the support the community has shown and how the community has come together in the aftermath of Daunte’s murder and made it clear that… it’s time for real transformative change. .”

Katie Wright and Dimock are also teaming up to create a non-profit organization to support other families of loved ones killed by police. They are in the process of finalizing a name and officially filing the nonprofit with the state. Its mission will be multifaceted, such as offering healing retreats and calling on other cities to adopt Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler’s Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution.

Dimock said his family has grown close to the Wrights over the past year and they can’t help but feel they’ve been brought together in an effort to shed light on their painful losses.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing family to be in this horrible situation,” Dimock said.

She said she knows how difficult birthdays can be the first time, but second birthdays are just as difficult. Soon Dimock said she will know how difficult the third anniversary of her son’s death is.

“If someone told you time makes things better, they’re lying,” Dimock said.

While the anniversary of Wright’s death is marked by somber memory, his life was also celebrated with dancing and balloons. His family, friends and activists who have never met him gathered at a Brooklyn Center event venue on Saturday for a party in his honor.

Katie and Aubrey Wright welcomed over 100 guests to enjoy live music and a free dinner with centerpieces made from the flowers and vases left over the past year at the 63rd anniversary memorial site. Avenue and Kathrene Drive.

Family and supporters returned to the memorial on New Year’s Day on Monday and enjoyed a barbecue dinner — Daunte’s favorite — and a sunset candlelight vigil.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who hugged Katie Wright and flipped through a collection of photos of Daunte at the memorial, said she came to support her family.

“It’s the one year anniversary of Daunte Wright’s kidnapping. I wanted to be here with the community and visit his mother and siblings,” she said. “Grieving is a long process.”

Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, said the event was a place for the community to collectively mourn Daunte.

“Everyone is having a great time enjoying each other’s company – that’s something we haven’t had in some time, having to re-address our grievances to the government through protest,” he said. he declared. “It’s a good opportunity for us to be together, to hang out with each other, but also to enjoy each other’s company.”

Aubrey Wright said that while he was happy the community was supporting his family, my son “still misses him every day”.

“The heartbreak is still there,” he said, “and it’s not getting better.”

Katie Wright said that even if the grief doesn’t go away, she’ll have to find a way to keep going.

“You learn to live a new life that has been given to you,” she said.

Staff reporter Alex Chhith contributed to this report.

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Elna M. Lemons