“This settlement reflects historic financial accountability, particularly when the small size and limited resources of Brooklyn Center are considered”
The City of Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, has settled with a family for the wrongful death of their loved one at the hands of one of the town’s police officers. In addition to monetary compensation, the settlement includes training reforms to prevent such tragedies in the future.
On Tuesday, June 21, the municipality with approximately 34,000 residents settled a lawsuit filed by the family of Daunte Wright, a man fatally shot by former officer Kim Potter on April 11, 2021. The settlement amount is $3.2 million, the Daily News reports.
The 20-year-old motorist succumbed to injuries after being shot by Potter, who allegedly mistook her firearm for a Taser gun when she killed him during a traffic stop.
Since the shooting, the 26-year veteran officer has been convicted of two counts of manslaughter (first-degree and second-degree); she was sentenced in February 2022 to two years in prison.
A police bodycam video captures her screaming “Taser,” multiple times before she fires her pistol and kills Wright.
Wright’s parents said in a statement, “Nothing can explain or fill the emptiness in our lives without Daunte or our continued grief at the senseless way he died. But in his name, we will move forward, and it was important to us that his loss be used for positive change in the community, not just for a financial settlement for our family.”
One change is the implementation of newly introduced training requirements for Brooklyn Center police when it comes down to how they perform traffic stops, including “officer intervention, implicit bias, weapons confusion, de-escalation, and mental health crises.”
The city has agreed to put into place policing changes around “so-called pretextual traffic stops for non-moving equipment violations, according to the lawyers, “that (does) not interfere with the safety of the driver, passenger, or members of the community.”
Minneapolis University of St. Thomas has agreed to teach some of the training on a pro-bono basis.
According to attorneys Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms, the settlement the Wright family received is the third-largest wrongful death payout in the history of the state and the largest in a city outside of Minneapolis, KSTP reported.
“This settlement reflects historic financial accountability, particularly when the small size and limited resources of Brooklyn Center are considered,” a press release states.
Romanucci further stated that the agreement “in this tragic case, will provide a meaningful measure of accountability to the family for their deep loss of a son, sibling, and father, and they hope and believe the measures of change to policing, policies and training will create important improvements to the community in Daunte’s name.”
“Guiding principle of our efforts was to strike a balance between holding Brooklyn Center accountable,” Storms added, “while not undermining the financial stability of the city or limiting the services it provides to its residents, many of whom are people of color.”
The feeling of safety is paramount to the Wright family, and it is their hope the city follows through on its commitment to reform.
They wrote jointly, “We hope Black families, people of color, and all residents feel safer now in Brooklyn Center because of the changes the city must make to resolve our claims.”
“It is vital to us that the city fulfill its good faith commitment to fully funding and implementing the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution,” both mother and father said.
In addition to the monetary and reform aspects of the settlement, the Wright family wants to see “substantial and meaningful non-monetary relief,” manifested as an establishment of a permanent Daunte Wright memorial where a temporary one now exists.
Mike Elliott, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, has not disclosed how the settlement will be paid, but it is believed the small city will tap into an insurance trust fund established by the League of Minnesota Cities to pay significant settlements, for this effort that seems to tally up to $100 per resident.
To put that in perspective, George Floyd’s estate received a settlement of $27 million from the much larger city of Minneapolis, and that tallied at $60 per person living in the Twin City.