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WINTER PARK, Fla. (WFLA) — The family of a Lakeland man who was killed by police officers at a wedding reception a year ago is calling for justice for what they say was an unnecessary death.
On Feb. 19, 2022, Winter Park police responded to the Winter Park Event Center after Daniel Knight, 39, allegedly got into a fight with other guests at his niece’s wedding reception.
However, Guy Rubin, the attorney for the Knight family, said while Knight was drunk, he did not hurt or threaten anyone before the officers arrived.
“He was outside with his sisters and other family members who taking care of him,” Rubin said.
He claimed the event coordinator at the reception misreported the events when he called 911, saying that unreleased video from inside the event center would show that Knight wasn’t threatening anyone.
In March 2022, police released body cam video of the incident, which showed his sisters trying to calm down the situation before the responding officers, who have yet to be identified, approached him.
“He’s OK, he’s OK, he’s OK. He’s our brother. It’s his first wedding,” the sisters said to the officers.
However, things escalated when an officer tried to pull Knight’s sister away from him, grabbing her arm while she tried to tell the officers Knight didn’t have any weapons. In the video, Knight can be heard becoming angry over the officers touching his sibling.
“In other words, he was provoked,” Rubin said as he criticized the officers for allegedly not following their training to de-escalate the conflict.
The officers tried to get Knight to get him to talk to him and restrain him when he punched the first officer, knocking him out.
The second officer tried to use a stun gun on Knight before getting hit, but Winter Park police said Knight knocked him down to the ground and continued to hit him. Rubin, however, alleged that Knight never punched the second officer.
The officer’s body cam video then showed him roll over and shoot at Knight seven times, killing him while his family screamed.
Melissa Cruz, Knight’s former fianceé, said losing him has caused her children untold misery in the aftermath.
“Now I have to raise our children by myself and hold them when they cry for their father at night,” Cruz said.
Rubin claimed the body cam video was edited to cast a more favorable light on the officers. He also alleged that a “blue wall of government corruption” has kept the officer’s names, Knight’s autopsy, radio dispatch audio of what the officers heard, video from inside the event center, and the FDLE report on the incident from being released.
He also alleged that the officers targeted Knight due to him being a man of color.
The attorney said because the family does not believe there will be criminal charges filed against the officers, they will be filing a lawsuit against the Winter Park Police Department to get the materials related to Knight’s death released.
“If they confirm what we suspect, we will file a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible,” Rubin said.