U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Lisa Wheeler-Brown

2013 Special Courage Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Lisa Wheeler-Brown | Special Courage Award
Cabretti Wheeler-Fortner Foundation
St. Petersburg, Florida

Lisa Wheeler-Brown is a community activist and advocate for homicide victims and their families in St. Petersburg, Florida. Mrs. Wheeler-Brown is a community unifier against violent crime and an impassioned “up stander.” She reacted to personal tragedy in the aftermath of the murder of her 21-year-old son, Cabretti, by turning her loss into a vision of creating safe, nonviolent communities. 

To honor her son’s memory, Mrs. Wheeler-Brown created the Cabretti Wheeler-Fortner Foundation, through which she has spent the last 5 years fighting for the rights of victims and their survivors. The Foundation’s mission, and Mrs. Wheeler-Brown’s motivation, is to prevent another mother from losing a child to senseless violence and to prevent another child from being lost. 

Through the Foundation, Mrs. Wheeler-Brown dedicates countless hours to educating youth about the lasting effects of violence, campaigning for and promoting nonviolence, engaging neighborhoods to improve police and community relations, and coordinating vigils to pray for the healing of victims’ survivors and their families. 

When detectives found themselves at a dead end in her son’s murder investigation due to witnesses refusing to cooperate or apprehension to come forward, Mrs. Wheeler-Brown launched a spirited campaign against the community’s “no snitching rule,” which became one of her most noteworthy accomplishments. 

She complained about the code of silence that scared residents and hampered investigations. She created a video on YouTube about “no snitching” to address the community’s culture of not cooperating with the police. She works diligently to break the code of silence and encourage others to speak out. 

Mrs. Wheeler-Brown’s courageous acts improved police relations in neighborhoods by bringing about positive changes in the attitudes of its residents.