(BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn.) — A passenger sitting next to Duante Wright during his police-involved killing, has filed suit against the city of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and ex-officer Kim Potter for the injuries and trauma she says was caused by the incident.
Alayna Albrecht-Payton, 21, is seeking at least $150,000 in damages in the April 11 confrontation that severely injured her and killed Wright immediately next to her, according to the lawsuit.
Albrecht-Payton, who had been dating Wright for a couple of weeks before the shooting, had testified in the trial against Potter in December 2021. In that trial, Potter claimed she mistook her firearm as a Taser and shot Wright, whose vehicle then accelerated and crashed into another SUV.
Since the trial, Potter has been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison and Brooklyn Center agreed to pay a $3.25 million settlement to Wright’s family.
Now, Albrecht-Payton is suing Brooklyn Center and Potter for the PTSD that she said she developed from witnessing Wright’s death and the severe injuries she sustained, including a broken jaw.
The lawsuit claims that Potter’s “negligent conduct” is the direct cause of Albrecht-Payton’s physical and emotional injuries, and that Brooklyn Center is liable for Potter’s actions as an officer of Brooklyn Center’s police department during the incident.
Albrecht-Payton’s attorney, Katie Bennett, told ABC News that her client is now seeking a lawsuit because she wants to hold the people involved accountable.
“Albrecht-Payton was a blameless witness to this horribly traumatic event,” Bennett said.
Bennett said that Albrecht-Payton required surgery after the incident for her broken jaw, had a concussion, punctured lips and was bleeding from her ears, and “not to mention the psychological and emotional injuries that have been life altering,” she added.
Jason M. Hiveley, who is representing Brooklyn Center and Potter, told ABC News that he is in the process of reviewing Albrecht-Payton’s medical records and evaluating their legal defenses.
The lawsuits states that Potter endangered Albrecht-Payton’s safety and that of a nearby fellow Brooklyn Center police officer when she shot Wright.
When Wright’s vehicle crashed into a nearby SUV after the shot, the lawsuit also alleges that Albrecht-Payton “bore the brunt” of the impact and despite her injuries “desperately” tried to save Wright as he “gasped for air.”
Instead of receiving help, responding officers held Albrecht-Payton at gunpoint and placed her in handcuffs, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Albrecht-Payton was bleeding from the head and face when officers approached her, and she was brought to the emergency room, where she was “severely distraught” and couldn’t explain to emergency services what had happened.
After firing a shot at Wright, leading to the crash and further confrontation of Albrecht-Payton by other officers, Potter broke down on the curb and started “wailing” instead of giving aid to Wright or Albrecht-Payton, the lawsuit said.
“Potter worried only about the consequences to herself,” the lawsuit read. “She drew her fellow officers’ attention to herself and away from responding to the crisis she created. Officer [Anthony] Luckey patted her back as she lay face down on the grass, expressing her concern that she was ‘going to prison."”
Five days after the incident, Albrecht-Payton underwent jaw surgery that left four screws in her jaw and wired her mouth shut for two weeks. She was only able to eat soft foods for another six weeks, the lawsuit said.
Her physical and emotional injuries prevented her from sleeping or eating regularly, leading her to become severely malnourished, according to the lawsuit.
She was hospitalized from April 26 – 29, with her medical records stating that “she was in an agitated delirium following her boyfriend being killed in front of her eyes,” according to the lawsuit.
In the months since, Albrecht-Payton has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder, the lawsuit said.
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