Nov 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trial of former officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright to begin

chalk drawing of george floyd and daunte wright

A woman draws a portrait of George Floyd and Daunte Wright in the intersection of 38th Street & Chicago Avenue on April 18, 2021, days after Wright was shot and killed. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Jury selection begins Tuesday for the trial of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last April. Here's what you need to know about the case:

The incident: Potter and another officer pulled over Wright, who was Black, in the Minneapolis suburb on April 11 for a hanging air freshener and expired tags, according to an amended criminal complaint.

  • Potter, who is white, shot and killed Wright while attempting to take him into custody over a separate, active arrest warrant discovered during the stop.

The fallout: Wright's death, which happened during the Derek Chauvin murder trial, sparked days of protests in the Minneapolis suburb.

  • It also led city leaders to pledge significant public safety reforms, including changes to the city's traffic stop policies.

The charges: Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter.

  • The second-degree charge requires a finding of "culpable negligence," while the first-degree alleges that Potter acted in a reckless manner to cause Wright's death, as The Star Tribune notes.
  • Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office is prosecuting the case.

The key question: Police and Potter's attorney have said the 26-year veteran inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a Taser after Wright tried to flee the encounter.

  • Body camera footage shows Potter yell "Taser" just before the shooting, and tell officers "S--t! I just shot him. ... I grabbed the wrong f-----g gun" right after.
  • Jurors will weigh that argument as they decide whether her actions meet the legal requirement for the charges.

Of note: Access to the Hennepin County Government Center, which houses the downtown Minneapolis courtroom, will be restricted for the duration of the trial.

What's ahead: The trial is expected to last several weeks from the start of jury selection, with opening statements scheduled for Dec. 8.

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