Families victimized by police violence unite, call for higher charges for Daunte Wright’s killer

“We as families who have lost a loved one to police violence are demanding justice for Daunte and justice for all stolen lives,” said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. She and several family members of those killed by police gathered at a press conference on Friday in solidarity with Daunte Wright’s mother Katie Wright.

“These are not isolated murders,” she Garraway, pointing out that lots of people have been killed by police before George Floyd and Daunte Wright. “We will not settle for manslaughter,” she said of the charges brought against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter who shot and killed Wright after a traffic stop on April 11.

“She murdered my son. My son is never going to come home. Second-degree manslaughter is not okay. I am not okay with that. It’s not right; she is sitting on a police pension while I am going to have to bury my son in a few days. I need my son to have justice along with everyone else’s son,” said Katie Wright of her son Daunte Wright.

Just two years ago, Potter was involved in the investigation of the Brooklyn Center police shooting death of Kobe Dimock-Hiesler, the son of Amity Dimock. “My son’s case needs to be reopened and all of the cases should be reopened,” she Dimock. “I think all of the cases of police violence should be reopened because there has been a history of nefarious actions by police departments. The departments themselves are based on rooted in White Supremacy,” she said.

“Here we are again! When are these people gonna stop?!” asked Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez in July 2016. Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter in June 2017.  “I will tell you why they haven’t stopped, it’s because nobody is holding them accountable,” said Castile.

 “Daunte’s murder struck a chord with me he was murdered in his vehicle. He did nothing wrong,” Castile continued. “We don’t have time to recover. I am mad as hell again and again. It’s always the same thing, ‘I was in fear for my life,’” she complained. “If you are that scared. You should be a greeter at Walmart. There are lots of excuses, but no reasons!”

Castile said Potter was not a rookie and suggested, “How about we take the gun from the dominant position to the non-dominant position? Change the placement of the taser. We want a true bill of murder. We have all these murders and only one man is incarcerated—a Black man,” Castile said, referring to former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor, currently serving a 12.5-year prison sentence for the 2019 shooting death of Justine Damond Ruszczyk.

Del Shea Perry spoke of her son Hardel Sherrell’s death while being held at the Beltrami County jail. “They ought to call this place Minni-sippi,” exclaimed Perry. “’Momma, they don’t believe me and they won’t let me go to the hospital because they think I am faking it,’ Perry recalled her son said to her not long before he died.

She said she called the jail to ask them to give him medical attention. Perry said her son suffered for six days and was “left to die alone on a cold jail cell floor in urine and feces-filled Depends. He walked in and was carried out in a body bag,” she said.

Perry mentioned others who have died while in jail. “Enough is enough,” she said. She thanked independent journalists Unicorn Riot and Georgia Fort for their help in telling her son’s story.

Chris Juhn/MSR News Families of people who were killed by police speak at a press conference.

Matilda Smith, the mother of Jaffort Smith, who was shot and killed by St. Paul police in May 2016, said, “It’s enough. We are sick and tired of you killing us and you expecting us to be quiet about it,” she stated. “George Floyd is a saint compared to Derek Chauvin.”

Demetrius Hill’s mother Marilyn Hill reminded folks about her son’s killing by St. Paul police 25 years ago. She said he was killed as a part of an effort “to depopulate our community” of Black and Brown people. He was 18 years old and she said he was shot in the back. She added that there are many people who have been killed by police that people are not aware.

Hill said Potter “should be charged with first degree, second degree and third degree [murder].”

Also present was Tiffany Burns, the sister of Jamar Clark who was killed in North Minneapolis in November 2015 by Minneapolis police officers Dustin Schwartze and Mark Ringgenberg. “He was handcuffed and shot in the head for no reason,” she said, noting that nothing had changed significantly in policing since then. She called for community control of the police and said every officer that took a life needs to give a life. “We shouldn’t be here. There are too many stolen lives. We want [Potter] to go to jail for life and every officer that took a life needs to give a life,” she said.

Don Williams spoke about his grandson Brian Quinones who was killed by a combination of Richfield and Edina police in September 2019 after a traffic stop. “They killed a very talented young man. When they killed Brian Quinones, they killed a bright spirit.”

Williams added that it’s not just Minneapolis and not just Minnesota. He challenged the mainstream press to report the truth, “as you see it,” he said. “Get it right. Quit criminalizing our family members.”

Bayle Adod Gelle, the father of Dolal Idd, who was killed by Minneapolis police on December 30, 2020, spoke as well. “We don’t need peace; we need justice,” he said. “We need equality. We need our rights.”

Also in attendance was Paul Johnson, who spoke on behalf of the friends and family of Travis Jordan, a native Hawaiian. He said Jordan was killed in November 2018 by Minneapolis policemen Ryan Keyes and Neal Walsh who were supposedly doing a wellness check.

Garraway thanked activists and supporters of the families. Several of them spoke, including Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN; Angela Rose Meyer of the Minneapolis NAACP; Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality; and Jonathan McClellan of the Minnesota Justice Coalition. McClellan has spearheaded police reform legislation.

Activists have called on lawmakers to pass police accountability bills, including the Philando Castile omnibus bill.

Nekima Levy-Armstrong activist, civil rights attorney, and organizer of the event, asked the press to “empathize with these mothers.” She said things are worse than usual.

State Rep. John Thompson D-(67A) said that Wright was racially profiled and called for law enforcement to stop brutalizing protesters. “Stop shooting rubber bullets at peaceful protesters. If you didn’t want them there, you would stop killing people,” he said.