In court to testify this month at former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter’s trial in the killing of Daunte Wright, Alayna Albrecht-Payton was shaking.
She had just recalled the frenzy after Potter fired the bullet that struck Daunte Wright in the chest and killed him after an initial stop for an air freshener and expired plates.
Wright’s car rolled down the street and hit another vehicle and a concrete barrier.
Then, it crashed, as Albrecht-Payton tried to save him.
They had been dating for only a few weeks.
“I was the only one out of everybody there that was trying to help him,” she said on the witness stand. “I was trying to push on his chest and call his name. He wasn’t answering me.”
I’m worried about her.
Please check on Albrecht-Payton as she tries to put her life back together after the trauma she experienced that afternoon.
Katie Bryant’s baby will never walk through her front door again. Potter’s conviction on second- and third-degree manslaughter charges — she’d yelled, “Taser! Taser!” before she fired her gun — on Thursday won’t change that. I understand the power of a mother’s love, but I do not know the connection felt by a mother who gave that love to her son for 20 years before she lost him.
After officers had stopped him that day, Daunte called his mom. He seemed worried.
“He sounded nervous, scared,” Bryant said during the trial when asked about the details of that phone call with her son on the day he was killed by Potter.
“He asked if he was in trouble. He just sounded really nervous. But I reassured him that it would be OK.”
Bryant never heard from him again.
That’s a moment only she understands. The next steps for her will be difficult and unique. And there is nothing that can replace what she lost on April 11, 2021.
Please, in the months and years ahead, ask Katie Bryant how she’s doing — whatever that means after a child is erased — as she seeks peace and closure.
During the trial, Arbuey Wright, Daunte’s father, reflected on the father-son bond he had to reimagine during work hours once his son got a job under him at a shoe store. Arbuey Wright said he had to remind Daunte at work that he was his boss, not his dad, before they would return home and reconnect again. “I miss him a lot,” Wright said during the trial. “Every day.”
As Arbuey Wright navigates those empty tomorrows, please embrace the father who wishes he could work next to his son again.
Daunte Wright Jr. won’t remember his father. He had not yet turned 2 when he was killed. In the future, he’ll meet him through pictures and videos. He’ll hear stories. But he will also watch the video. That video.
Then, he will have to grapple with the image of losing his hero shortly after his life had just started. He already is walking along an arduous path, and he does not yet know it.
Please hold Daunte Wright Jr. close as he grows up and begins to search for the things people search for when the unfairness of life strikes long before they can comprehend it.
For these individuals, April 11, 2021, would turn into the worst day of their respective lives.
That day, Potter crumpled on the ground, contemplating her fate.
“I’m going to prison,” she screamed.
The officers around her told her she would be OK as they tried to calm her. While they surrounded Potter, Daunte Wright was bleeding in his driver’s seat next to a 20-year-old woman who was trying to save his life. Potter never thought to ask if he was OK. She did not run to help Daunte Wright.
She was worrying about her own life, just moments after she had taken his.
After Potter was found guilty on both manslaughter charges she faced on Thursday, her attorney Paul Engh stood in front of Judge Regina Chu and asked for mercy on the former Brooklyn Center police officer. He said she was not a threat to anyone and deserved bail so she could spend time with her family before the sentencing.
“It is the Christmas holiday season,” Engh said to Chu. “She is a devoted Catholic, no less.”
Daunte Wright was a 20-year-old Black man who did not deserve what happened to him that day. The verdict is a form of justice. But this is not the end.
There will be a time to think about the role policing should play in the future of the Twin Cities. There will be a time to have real conversations about the measures that can prevent the killings of unarmed Black men in police encounters in Minnesota. There will be a time to ask if we want our children to grow up in a place that continues to kill Black folks on camera.
For me, today is not that day.
Please wrap your arms around Daunte Wright’s family, his friends and anyone else close to him who was affected by his death and this trial.
After Thursday’s verdict, I am thinking only of them.