Published On: Mon, May 9th, 2022

Daunte Wright’s mother, officer clash after she stops to film police action on a highway

Police in suburban Minneapolis over the weekend continued to respond to news of an officer who confronted the mother of Daunte Wright for stopping on a highway shoulder and filming officers.

Katie Wright held a press conference Thursday to present her case to the public: She said she stopped her sedan on a highway to film officers in the middle of a traffic stop.

“I pulled over to the shoulder, stopped to record to make sure that those babies — it was two young kids, they had to have been in their 20s to make sure they got home safe, because we know we have a police problem in Minnesota,” Wright said.

“All I was doing was my civic duty to pull over and make sure that those babies got home safe to their families because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to any other families,” she said Thursday.

The Brooklyn Center Police Department did not specifically say the officer who confronted Katie Wright was within policy or the law, but it released a timeline of key events related to the May 4 interaction.

The department, employer of Daunte Wright’s killer before the officer’s resignation last year, also released body camera video and audio from the scene of the May 4 highway confrontation involving one of its officers.

Daunte Wright was 20 when he was fatally shot by Officer Kim Potter.

Potter said she meant to deploy a taser after Wright tried to get back in his vehicle during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021. The officer was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced in February to two years in prison.

Daunte Wright’s death, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis the previous year, inspired renewed demonstrations by justice and police reform protesters.

That history was personal for Wright as she pointed her camera at officers from the same agency that stopped her son in 2021.

One of three Brooklyn Center officers at the scene May 4 initially motioned for Katie Wright to keep moving, the suburban department said in a statement. Katie Wright did not comply.

She had stopped her sedan on or near the center median’s shoulder in the direction of northbound traffic, and officers were in the middle of what the department described in a statement as “a high-risk stop” on the right shoulder of southbound lanes.

Another law enforcement agency, unnamed, had requested the department’s help with the stop, which involved a homicide investigation, Brooklyn Center police said.

After the stop was deemed to be under control, one of the three Brooklyn Center officers at the scene confronted Katie Wright.

She was contacted by the officer because one of the people subjected to the traffic stop objected to being filmed, the department said.

“As one of our officers was assisting in detaining a person from the high-risk stop the person being detained stated she did not want to be filmed and wanted the person filming to stop,” it said in a statement.

The officer crossed busy lanes of Highway 252 to reach the mother. She said that her wrist was injured when the officer pulled her from the vehicle and took her phone from her hand and put it on the roof of her car.

That officer, who has not been identified, indicated the mother would be getting some kind of ticket in the mail, but it wasn’t clear from body camera video if he specified what violations he had in mind.

NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis-St. Paul reported that one possibility was a citation for failing to comply with an officer’s order not to stop on a highway.

There may be a superseding right to observe police, however. The mother threatened to sue the department over the stop.

Katie Wright said the officer told her she was being arrested. “Once I told him who I was, he let me go.”

“You know who I am right?” she said, according to audio captured with police body camera footage. “I’m Katie Wright. You guys killed my son and I’m going to videotape it.”

She was referring to the traffic stop that evening.

“If you take me to jail,” she said, “I’m going to sue you.”

There is normally no right to privacy from cameras in such a public setting, and it’s unclear why police believed they had a role in fulfilling the subject of a stop’s wish not to be filmed.

Police and other government agencies have long lobbied for more video cameras and other surveillance tools in public spaces such as highways.

The ACLU of Washington, D.C., said in a primer on photographers’ rights, “Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right.”

The ACLU of Minnesota noted that it successfully defended a woman, Amy Jo Kooperman, criminally charged with interfering with law enforcement after she filmed police in 2018 in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale.

Kooperman sued that suburban city for allegedly violating her “First and Fourth Amendment rights to record and speak to police, and to not be cited with obstructing justice for exercising her constitutional rights,” the ACLU of Minnesota said in a statement last year.

On Friday the civil liberties organization tweeted, “Let’s make this absolutely clear: You have the right to record police actions as long as you do not interfere with their activities and are not breaking any other law. Period.”

The statewide union that represents rank-and-file law enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the Associated Press, Brooklyn Center police union President Chuck Valleau praised the officer who confronted Katie Wright for what he described as a “professional response and restraint during the incident.”

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