DEVILS LAKE, N.D.—The mother of a Devils Lake man fatally shot by police has been barred from speaking at a City Commission meeting after her attorney sent a letter to City Hall demanding a $20 million settlement for his death, according to documents obtain in an open records request.
Family and supporters of Daniel Aaron Fuller will gather Monday, Sept. 17, for a peaceful demonstration at a parking lot near City Hall as commissioners meet at 5:30 p.m. Fuller, 26, was shot in the back of the head by Devils Lake police Det. Brandon Potts after a foot chase led to a reported struggle between the two on July 5.
Fuller's mother, Marla, requested to address city leaders at the Monday meeting. The commission often allows residents to speak for five minutes if they request to appear on the agenda, but City Hall notified Marla Fuller on Friday via email she would not be allowed to speak at the meeting "per advice of legal counsel," according to an open records request.
"She (Marla Fuller) just wanted to voice her some of her concerns," said Daniel Fuller's sister, Allyson Bartlett. "She wasn't expecting any answers. She just wanted them to hear her out."
The email did not specify further details on the reason for the denial and deferred to City Attorney Daniel Gaustad to answer questions about the decision. Gaustad initially declined to comment when a reporter called his office Monday.
The city released a statement Tuesday explaining it had received a letter from the Fuller family attorney, which said the Fullers wanted $20 million from the city. That letter was sent by Minneapolis attorney J. Ashwin Madia and also was addressed to the Police Department, North Dakota Office of Management and Budget and state Attorney General's Office.
"A vigorous defense will be pursued to any civil litigation that may ensue," Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson said in the city's statement. "However, this unprecedented monetary demand precipitated the decision that Ms. Fuller's appearance on the agenda and before the City Commission would not be appropriate."
Bartlett confirmed Madia was representing her family as a civil attorney. She said he told the family he sent a letter asking the city to preserve evidence from the shooting but was not aware the lawyer sent a letter demanding a settlement.
The letter dated July 12 states the family's intent to file a lawsuit against the Police Department, citing "wrongful death and deprivation of Constitutional rights."
Officers said Daniel Fuller matched the description of a suspect breaking into a mobile home. He fled police but was found later lying on the ground.
Daniel Fuller was unarmed. His family claims, based on information they say they received from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the man was pistol-whipped three times before Potts shot him in the back of the head.
An autopsy stating Daniel Fuller's death was a homicide confirmed the shot was inadvertent and he suffered blunt force trauma injuries. The family is calling for criminal charges against Potts.
The detective's attorney, Mark Friese, said Fuller attacked Potts, adding that the officer was trying to get away when he hit the man and accidentally shot him.
Ramsey County State's Attorney Kari Agotness is investigating whether to press charges, though evidence regarding the case is being reviewed.
Governing bodies must allow residents to attend public meetings but does not have to allow them to speak. It is rare for the Devils Lake City Commission to prohibit residents from addressing the commission, City Administrator Terry Johnston said.
"This means our voices need to be extra loud so they can hear us through the brick building of the City Hall during the peaceful demonstration," the Fuller family wrote on its Facebook page titled "Justice for Daniel Fuller in Devils Lake, ND."
The Fullers are hoping 100 demonstrators will come out, Bartlett said. Tensions may be high regarding Daniel Fuller's death, but the family wants a peaceful protest and doesn't want anyone to antagonize officers, she said.
"It's very important that this be a peaceful event because we don't want to show them or give them any more reason why they have to use police brutality against people like us," Bartlett said.
Chief Joe Knowski is aware of the demonstration and plans to have normal patrols that day to check on the protesters, but the Police Department doesn't expect to have additional officers present outside City Hall to watch the group, he said.
"I just don't want any property (damage) or people to get hurt," he said. "We have to be prepared, but outside of that, we aren't going to stop them."