The city of Brooklyn Center will pay $3.25 million to the family of Daunte Wright, the Black man who was killed by police during a traffic stop last year.
The city has also agreed to change policies and police officer training related to making traffic stops for equipment violations that do not interfere with the safety of the driver, passenger or members of the community, according to a statement from lawyers representing Wright's family released Tuesday night.
The monetary agreement is believed to be the third-largest civil rights wrongful death settlement of its kind in the Minnesota and the largest such settlement for a city in Minnesota outside Minneapolis, lawyers representing the family said.
Wright's family members "hope and believe the measures of change to policing, policies and training will create important improvements to the community in Daunte's name," said co-counsel Antonio M. Romanucci of Chicago law firm Romanucci & Blandin. "Nothing can bring him back, but the family hopes his legacy is a positive one and prevents any other family from enduring the type of grief they will live with for the rest of their lives."
Wright's death on April 11, 2021, sparked days of outrage and protests after officer Kimberly Potter shot him during a traffic stop. Potter claimed she meant to use her Taser on Wright, who was resisting arrest, but accidentally fired her service weapon during the incident on 63rd Avenue. Potter was subsequently convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The fallout led to the resignation of Police Chief Tim Gannon. The City Council followed by passing a series of reforms known as the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Act to remake its police department after Wright and Dimock-Heisler, another Black man who died during an encounter with Brooklyn Center police.
Some of those reforms include using social workers and other trained professionals to respond to medical, mental health and social-needs calls that don't require police. The act also prohibits police from making arrests for low-level offenses and requires the city to use unarmed civilians to handle minor traffic violations. The reforms also would establish a new city department to oversee public safety.
"The financial component of this settlement cannot come close to compensating the family for their loss, yet the comparative cost for and commitment by the city reflects a commitment to accountability for this small community," said co-counsel Jeff Storms of the Newmark Storms Dworak law firm based in Minneapolis.
The Wright settlement will not be finalized until an agreement is made on substantial and "meaningful nonmonetary relief," the statement said.
Brooklyn Center is working to create a Community Safety and Violence Prevention Implementation Committee to review and make recommendations regarding police response to protests, review collective bargaining agreements between the city and the police department, and create a civilian oversight committee. Committee members will include residents who have been detained by Brooklyn Center police, according to the resolution passed last year.
Last month, the city of about 33,000 residents in northern Hennepin County hired Kellace McDaniel as its new police chief after being without a leader for more than a year. McDaniel, who is Black, was a former lieutenant with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.
"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," said Wright's parents, Katie and Aubrey Wright. "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."
Minneapolis in March 2021 paid a record $27 million to settle a lawsuit brought by George Floyd's family in the Black man's murder by police.