On April 11, 2021, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police officer, Kim Potter, during a traffic stop. The killing sparked protests and unrest in the Minneapolis area and reignited national discussions about police brutality and racial inequality.
In June 2021, the City of Brooklyn Center reached a $3.25 million settlement agreement with Daunte Wright’s family. The distribution of the settlement has been under scrutiny since that time, with concerns raised about how the money would be distributed.
Chyna Whitaker, the former partner of Daunte Wright and the mother of his son, Daunte Wright Jr., had concerns about the distribution and raised questions about the GoFundMe money raised in the weeks after Wright’s killing. Whitaker said that Daunte Wright Jr. had seen none of the GoFundMe money that had been raised after Wright’s killing.
According to the lawsuit, the fundraiser was reportedly initially created for Daunte Wright Jr. but the language on the listing was later changed to remove the reference to the child. Whitaker said she was promised half of the more than $1 million raised online would go to her to help her support her son. When that money did not go to the intended purpose, Whitaker filed a lawsuit.
The settlement distribution drawn up by the trustee last year would have given Daunte Wright Jr. $1.3 million, a little over a third of the total settlement but 61 percent of the funds left over after legal fees. However, in a distribution order issued on Wednesday, the judge blasted attorneys for an “unreasonable” contingency fee.
The judge criticized the Wright family attorneys for initially seeking a 40 percent contingency fee of the settlement money before dropping the figure down to 33 percent, which is a more typical fee for settlement cases in Minnesota. The judge said this case wasn’t complex, and the settlement process was pretty straightforward.
In her order, the judge reduced the attorney’s fee to a total of 15 percent, with all of that going to Newmark Storms Dworak, stating that the firm, “unlike the other two law firms, accepted full responsibility for the case during its duration and devoted substantial time to the case.” Separately, the judge did grant a $56,000 payment to the Romanucci firm.
The judge also referenced tensions between Whitaker and Wright’s family that extended to the settlement. Stating there is “profound animosity between Wright’s family and Whitaker” the judge referenced an altercation following the sentencing of Kim Potter, the officer who killed Wright, between Whitaker and Wright’s sister. Diamond Wright was charged with assault on June 15, 2022, and later pled guilty to Fifth-Degree Assault.
The judge also references another incident where Whitaker says Wright’s father Arbuey tried to “forcibly remove Daunte Jr. from her arms.” The judge stated that the distribution of the settlement was finalized, with Daunte Wright Jr. receiving more than $2 million and Daunte Wright Sr.’s mother and father receiving $255,000 and $155,000, respectively.
Overall, the distribution of the settlement in the Daunte Wright case highlights the complexity and challenges of distributing large sums of money in the aftermath of police brutality cases. It also underscores the importance of careful communication and negotiations among all parties involved in the settlement process, including family members, lawyers, and government officials.