It began with the fist bump. And those photographs of him dancing around the surface of the ocean at half-mast. Daunte Wright celebrated after a judge recently found that he did not deserve prison for shooting a Gulfport cop in the leg last year.
To Wright, the evidence was clear: he was holding an airsoft gun, not a real gun. The officer, Cody Parker, said the airsoft weapon was an airsoft pistol, and video surveillance showed the man reaching for the gun before shooting him.
But prosecutors said Wright had a gun in his waistband when he was shot, and said he pointed a real gun at Parker. Parker went on to shoot Wright in the face.
“Whatever they say, I don’t care,” Wright told reporters, who snapped hundreds of photos of him jumping into the Atlantic. “I’m not going away from my kids and my family.”
Now, as the justice system of Mississippi’s coast grinds to a halt while jurors weigh a complicated set of circumstances, debate continues about the wisdom of a case that has captured national attention. Wright could stand to serve up to two years in prison, in what will surely be his third arrest in less than two years.
Prosecutors have recommended, along with the defence, that Wright, 40, face four years of probation and community service.
Meanwhile, Parker faces four to 20 years in prison, and other officers involved in the incident face possible disciplinary action.
“I do not wish my loss or the loss of any life in any way upon anybody,” Cannon said in an August 15 statement. “However, if Mr Wright maintains his innocence in this matter, then I would submit to you that the death penalty would be an appropriate sentence in this case.”
The shooting drew attention to what some have called a disturbing trend on the Gulf Coast, where other police shootings have occurred, including the killing of the US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010, and the fatal shooting of a bystander by a Gulfport officer in August 2014.
“That officer-involved shooting video seems to be everywhere these days,” said attorney Elizabeth Feeney, who has served as the city’s prosecutor for 15 years. “What does it show us? How do we feel?”
While Wright’s shooting is still under active investigation, Feeney said, it is unclear if he will continue to live in the city. “He did it, and he did it, and he’s going to go to jail,” she said. “I think he’s fortunate that he’s not losing his house, his house is in Mississippi. But still, when you’re dealing with a $5.5m dollar home, you’re counting your blessings.”
But how should he feel, Mayor George Creel said, when he saw a woman in the street with a news crew bearing the word “COP SHOT” on its camera lens?
“It just breaks my heart,” Creel said. “That woman has a son. I’m sure she had a son that lost someone that weekend.
“It doesn’t get any better than that.”