‘I felt a definite connection’: Families who lost loved ones during police encounters discuss Chauvin trial, Wright killing

The Derek Chauvin trial was painful for some in Minnesota.

On top of that, the police shooting death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center occurred just a week ago.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS sat down with two families whose loved ones have lost their lives in a deadly encounter involving law enforcement.

They opened up about the connection they feel to the Floyd family, their perspectives on the Chauvin trial and their thoughts moving forward in light of the shooting death of Wright involving a now-former Brooklyn Center police officer.

D’Azhane Felder-Johnson’s father died in a police encounter.

"Hearing about it, it’s always, like ‘What? Another black man? Another one of us?" Felder-Johnson said about her initial reaction to the death of George Floyd.

Keli Johnson’s father also died in an incident with law enforcement. She said her first feelings relating to Floyd’s death were, "not again, when is it going to stop?"

Two different families say they feel connected to the family of George Floyd for reasons they never wanted.

Felder-Johnson said, "We shouldn’t have to be a community. This is not a cause that we should be coming together for."

Felder-Johnson was 8 years old when her father, Dominic Felder, lost his life in an encounter with Minneapolis police officers while having a mental episode in 2006.

Keli Burns was an 18-year-old college student when her father Christopher Burns died while in police custody.

She said, "We lost a loved one that we will never get back."

Her younger sister, Lisa, said she was just 3 years old.

Burns said, "You can never replace them. Lisa and I will have we grew up and we’re still growing up without a dad."

Like the Floyd family, the city of Minneapolis settled with both families, after they filed wrongful death lawsuits in federal civil court. The Felder and Burns family settlements, combined, totaled more than $2 million. It’s a fraction of the $72 million the city settled for with the Floyd family.

Felder-Johnson’s mother, Tenecia Trice, said ultimately the money isn’t worth the price of losing a loved one.

Trice said, "I was ecstatic. I was elated. I was relieved and I remember pulling the car over in the parking lot and being like ‘you know, thank you, Jesus.’ But when I turned them out and I looked at my daughter, she said ‘I don’t care, I don’t care,’ and she was about 13. Since I don’t care about their money, I don’t have my dad."

The police officers in both the Felder-Johnson and Burns cases were cleared of any wrongdoing and never criminally charged.

Even though each incident is different, Burns said she feels a connection to what the Floyd family could be going through.

"It’s a very hurtful thing for me," Burns said. "This trial has opened up a lot of old wounds from the pain of my own father dying this way, so it’s been very hard for me to watch it, to listen to the reenactments of what happened."

Both families said they made the decision to only watch bits and pieces of the trial

Felder-Johnson said, "I don’t know how I would be able to live if every waking moment I see this image or this video being replayed…Eight minutes and 46 seconds, I mean, man, it just makes me emotional thinking about it. That is so sad, it really is."

There was no video of her father’s death. She said she gets emotional because she’s thinking about the Floyd family and her heart goes out to them.

Trice said, "It’s traumatizing, and there’s things that you can’t forget years later. You can’t forget some of the things you hear and see."

As they reflect on Floyd’s death and the criminal cases against the officers involved, Trice said charges being brought quickly against the now-former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter is another step in the right direction.

"I feel like there is being progress made," Trice said. "At least they’re attempting to now hold people accountable."

The facts and circumstances surrounding the deaths of Floyd and Wright are distinct from each other and these families’ loved ones.

However, Lisa Burns said, "It was like it was happening all over again."

Trice said, "I felt a definite connection. An immediate connection. If it’s happening to one of us, it’s happening to all of us."