Dec 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Ex-officer Kim Potter found guilty of manslaughter in killing of Daunte Wright

Artwork is displayed outside the Hennepin County Government Center on November 30, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Posters are displayed outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Nov. 30, 2021, in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter on Thursday was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last April.

The big picture: The shooting, which came 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 mostly white jury deliberated for about four days.

Background: Potter and another officer pulled over Wright, who was Black, in Brooklyn Center 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.
  • 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.

Driving the news: During the trial, prosecutor Erin Eldridge argued that Potter was reckless and negligent on April 11 when she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of a Taser and shot Wright.

  • Potter's attorney, Earl Gray, said his client made a mistake, but one that would not have happened if Wright did not attempt to flee police. Gray argued Potter was worried that fellow officer Sgt. Mychal Johnson would be dragged by Wright's vehicle, which is why she went for what she thought was the Taser.
  • Potter testified last week, breaking down in tears and apologizing for her mistake. Under questioning by prosecutors, she said she did not attempt to help Wright.

What they're saying: “The family of Daunte Wright is relieved that the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death of their son, brother, father and friend," lawyers for his family said in a statement.

  • "We must now turn our attention to ensuring that Kim Potter receives the strongest and most just sentence possible. It is also imperative that we focus on the conduct of Brooklyn Center and pinpoint its systemic failures that contributed to Daunte’s unlawful death,” they added.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said that "I'm very mindful today that there will be an empty chair at the Wright family dinner during the holidays, and that saddens me."

  • "With the jury finding Kimberly Potter guilty today of manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter in the second degree in connection with Daunte's death, we have a degree of accountability," he added.

What's next: The judge ordered Potter to be taken into custody without bail. Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 18.

  • Minnesota sentencing guidelines for first-degree manslaughter call for seven years in prison, with a maximum of 15.
  • Sentencing guidelines for second-degree manslaughter call for four years in prison, with a maximum of 10 years.
  • Prosecutors previously said they will seek a harsher sentence, according to the Associated Press.

Of note: With good behavior, two-thirds of Minnesota sentences are served behind bars and the remaining third is served on supervised release.

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