Mother of police victim finds strength in numbers

Courtesy of Amity Dimock Amity Dimock and John Garcia

Brooklyn Center police killed her autistic son Kobe Dimock Heisler in 2019

It’s been nearly two years since Amity Dimock lost her son, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, at the hands of Brooklyn Center police, and she’s fought to keep her son’s story in the headlines ever since. She has pushed for a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into the Brooklyn Center Police Department and has worked with state and local officials to make structural changes so that no one else will experience such a loss at the hands of the police.

On Saturday, May 15 the City of Brooklyn Center passed a public safety resolution that would prioritize a diversity of responses to the city’s community safety needs and not solely rely on law enforcement. The resolution, titled the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution, passed with a 4-1 vote and the backing of Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot.

On receiving the news

Days before her son’s death, Dimock was speaking on a local government board in northern Minnesota about her concerns regarding the police. She expressed fearing for her son’s life due to his medical condition if he ever had to encounter law enforcement.

“I had this absolute fear being a mother with a child on the autism spectrum that I’m going to get a call saying that my son was murdered by the police,” she said. Four days later, Dimock received the call that she dreaded. Her ex-husband Jason Heisler had called to inform her that their son had been shot and killed by the police.

Shocked, she began to scream into the phone. Dimock recalls at one point turning it off because she was unable to process the information. “If you can imagine, I’m screaming, crying, trying to verbalize what I’ve just been told.” After taking it all in, Dimock said, she called Heisler’s stepfather John Garcia and shared the news with him. They reached out to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) multiple times and gained nothing. “The BCA and Brooklyn Center never ended up returning that call to verify that they had murdered my son,” she said.

Dimock worked to piece together her son’s final day. She spoke to Heisler’s grandparents, who he was with the day of the shooting. They had taken him to Wendy’s for a meal, but issues arose when the restaurant made a mistake with his order. This caused an argument between Heisler, 21, and his nearly 80-year-old grandfather.

Related Story: Brooklyn Center resolution calls for unarmed responders

Hoping to further avoid confrontation, Heisler’s grandfather drove six blocks back to his home, leaving his grandson at the restaurant. When Heisler arrived back home, he continued arguing with his grandfather and picked up a knife during their exchange. Worried about his grandson’s safety, he called the police.

“My son had a history of self- harm, which we were all aware of, including the police officers,” Dimock said. Before the officers arrived on the scene, Heisler had calmed down significantly. As the police made their way to the home, Heisler’s grandfather tried to intercept them and turn them back so as not to further agitate his grandson.

Despite being asked to leave, the officers made their way into the home to confront Heisler. They searched him for weapons and sat him in the middle of the living room near his grandmother.

“At different points you can hear them try to steer him into admitting that he was brandishing the weapon at his grandfather,” said Dimock. “For a while he denied their accusations, visibly growing frustrated with the questions. One thing people on the autism spectrum will sometimes do is just tell you what you want to hear just so you can shut up and go away, so I think at one point he finally said fine, or whatever.”

According to Dimock, one officer accused Heisler of lying. Bodycam footage shows Heisler beginning to sob saying he did not want to be placed on a 30-day mental health hold, which had been the result of a previous encounter with police. Suddenly Heisler jumped to his feet and, according to his grandparents, headed toward the back door. Officers at the scene alleged that Heisler grabbed a knife and attempted to use it against one of them before they shot him.

Cody Turner, one of the officers who shot Heisler, had previously responded to a call concerning Heisler and was aware of his mental state. Officers Turner and Brandon Akers, also involved in the shooting, were instructed to go in separate cars and turn off their body cameras by Kim Potter, the commanding officer at the scene.

Potter made headlines in April after the shooting death of Daunte Wright, when she allegedly mistook her firearm for a taser.

Seeking answers

For months after the shooting, Dimock worked to get answers from local and state officials. She put in a data request with the BCPD and received access to four videos from the shooting.

“We still don’t have an autopsy report,” Garcia said. “We don’t have the medical examiner’s report. We don’t have any of that stuff. It’s going on 20 months.” The two were invited to watch footage from the encounter at the BCPD. The city’s legal team was present there and kept watch over her reactions.

“I made it through the second video, which was inside, and they had turned it up so that you could hear my son speaking, so when the actual shooting happened it was so loud. It just startled me,” Dimock said.

She has not looked at the recording since. Dimock has since passed on that footage to Communities United Against Police Brutality for further investigation.

Nearly a year after Heisler’s shooting, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced that there would be no charges against the officers. “When I got that news I had almost zero reaction because I was already 100% prepared,” Dimock said. “There was nothing in the history of Minnesota that would indicate to me that they would come out with a charge regardless of what happened.”

Dimock has pushed for legislation that would help families seek justice in cases involving police shootings and create steps to prevent other fatal encounters with law enforcement. She pushed for getting rid of the statute of limitations in wrongful death suits and ending qualified immunity. Dominick also spoke out in favor of more mental health training for officers.

“Last year we forced a special session specifically with the police reform bills we had at that point,” she said. Those that passed included a ban on chokeholds, mental health training, and training involving interactions with those on the autism spectrum. “I testified at the legislature to help get the autism bill passed.”

In solidarity with others

Dimock’s focus now is getting the DOJ to look into her son’s death in hope of reopening his case. She said that her task may have been made easier by Kim Potter’s indictment for 2nd-degree manslaughter for killing Wright.

Dimock has found solace in helping other mothers and those who have lost loved ones at the hands of law enforcement. She’s been a part of the organization Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence and found that working together strengthens their mission.

“What we’ve learned is that being united and coming together at them over and over as a group as opposed to individually where it’s easy to pick us off or dismiss us, that it’s becoming much more challenging for them,” she said.