Feb 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ex-officer Kim Potter sentenced to 2 years for shooting Daunte Wright

Picture of a yellow sign that says "justice for daunte" along with a BLM flag and flowers
Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter has been sentenced to two years in prison for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year.

The big picture: The sentence, which follows a jury's December conviction of Potter for first- and second-degree manslaughter, is 24 months under "the custody of the commissioner of corrections."

  • The judge ruled that Potter "shall serve two-thirds of that time or 16 months in prison and a third of supervised release."
  • Following the sentencing, the judge said, "To those who disagree and feel a longer prison sentence is appropriate, as difficult as it may be, please try to empathize with Miss Potter’s situation."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison had asked Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu to impose a sentence of 86 months, or seven years and two months.

  • Potter's attorney argued that an 86-month sentence was too much "for someone like her," referring to Potter, and adding that she had no prior criminal record.

Chu, who said this was one of the "saddest cases" she had presided over, ultimately found that Potter "did not abuse her position of authority."

  • "There is no question that is Potter is extremely remorseful," Chu said. "It is also beyond dispute that she is particularly amenable to probation."
  • She said that Potter "does not present a danger of future crimes," adding that the former officer "does not require rehabilitation to become a law-abiding citizen."
  • "This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine and a half minutes as he gasped for air," Chu said, comparing Wright's shooting with George Floyd's murder.

Context: 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.
  • Potter's attorney argued the veteran officer inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a Taser after Wright tried to flee the encounter.

What they're saying: "Let me tell you what you've stolen from us," said Katie Ann Wright, Daunte Wright's mother, adding that she was speaking directly to Potter.

  • "You took his future ... She took my baby boy with a single gunshot through his heart, and shattered mine," she said. "My shattered heart has been on display for almost a year now, and I have to live in this nightmare, watching my son shot and killed over and over again."
  • "Your honor, I'm asking you to hold the defendant to the highest accountability," she said. "I can't give the defendant sympathy ... How do you show remorse when you're smiling in your mugshot after being sentenced for manslaughter? After taking my son's life?"

Aubrey Wright, Daunte Wright's father, said, "Daunte's life was cut short by Kim Potter."

  • "She also damaged my whole family's heart. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything we do as a family ends in tears because all we have is memories left of our son," he added.
  • "My son Daunte's life was taken away way too soon and he's never coming back."

Potter took the stand during the sentencing hearing, telling Wright's family that she was "devastated for all of you."

  • She spoke directly to Wright's mother: "I understand a mother’s love and I am sorry I broke your heart."
  • "I do pray that one day, you can find forgiveness, only because hatred is so destructive to all of us."

Potter's attorney argued that the case was overcharged, saying that she should not have been convicted for first-degree manslaughter because she did not have a criminal record at the time of Wright's killing.

Flashback: 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 traffic stop policies.
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