Police Officer Found Guilty Of Killing Daunte Wright (UPDATED)

Daunte Wright with his 2-year-old son Daunte Jr.. Photo from the Wright family.

By Terrance Turner

April 13, 2021 (updated Dec. 23)

The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man this weekend has resigned. Kim Potter shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. Today she submitted her resignation, effective immediately. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has also resigned.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the shooting happened around 2 pm Sunday at N. 63rd and Orchard avenues. Officers stopped Wright because his car had an expired tag. NBC News says Wright “also ran afoul of a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners and other items from their rearview mirrors.”

When officers checked his name, they learned he had a warrant. According to Hennepin County District Court records, a warrant was issued on April 2 after Wright failed to appear in court. He was facing misdemeanor charges of carrying a pistol without a permit and of fleeing police. He was served a court summons, but a TikTok video by comedian Walter Masterson reveals a glaring error: “Daunte Wright had a warrant out for his arrest because the notice for the Zoom hearing was sent to the wrong address,” Masterson said.

That wasn’t the only mistake that police would make. Body camera footage shows three officers approach a white sedan. One officer opens the door, and Wright gets out of the car.
Wright is later shown with his hands behind his back. Another officer approaches while Wright is cuffed and touches his arm. Wright jerks away and tries to get back in the driver’s seat. A struggle ensues. Officer Potter can be heard saying, “I’ll tase you! Taser! Taser. Taser!” But the object pointed at Wright appears to be a gun.

“Holy s–t,” I just shot him,” Potter exclaims on the audio footage. Wright’s car sped off and crashed into another vehicle. Wright died at the scene.

“We train with our handguns on our dominant side and our taser on our weak side,” now-former Chief Gannon said to reporters after the shooting. (Meaning: a right-handed officer wears the firearm on his/her right side.) “As I watched the video and listened to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” (The Hennepin County medical examiner says Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest.)

Somehow, Kim Potter confused her handgun with her Taser — a baffling mistake given her decades of experience. According to Axios, Potter had been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. She was initially placed on administrative leave after the shooting. But now she’s leaving the force for good. In a letter to city officials, Potter wrote: “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”

Gannon has also submitted a resignation letter. But his explanation of Potter’s behavior doesn’t make sense to Daunte Wright’s grieving father. “I lost my son, he’s never coming back,” Daunte Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview on “Good Morning America.” this morning. “I can’t accept that — a mistake, that doesn’t even sound right,” he added. “This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”

“He had a 2-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him. He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much,” Daunte’s mother Katie Wright said. “He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”

Protests broke out last night in and around Minneapolis; a patrol officer says that about 40 people were arrested last night. Wright’s shooting has heightened already-high tensions in the city; the shooting took place just about 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed last year. The trial of his murderer, former officer Derek Chauvin, is happening now. And today, at a press conference that featured both the Floyd and Wright families, a heartbreaking revelation about the connection between them:

UPDATE (April 15, 2021): Kim Potter was charged yesterday with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. According to CBS Minnesota, Potter was arrested and then freed on $100,000 bond. She made her first court appearance today on manslaughter charges.

A manslaughter charge is defined by Minnesota law as “when someone acts with negligence, creating an unreasonable risk that causes death or great bodily harm.” If convicted, Potter faces up to 10 years in prison.

Breaking: Kim Potter has been found guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. According to NBC News, a Hennepin County jury found Potter guilty of first-degree manslaughter, meaning she improperly used “such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable.” Jurors also found Potter guilty of second-degree manslaughter, which required a finding of “culpable negligence” that created “unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.”

The maximum penalty for first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm is 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. However, since Potter has no criminal history, Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence roughly between 6 and 8.5 years in prison. (The New York Times adds that Potter is unlikely to serve time for the second-degree charge because she has been convicted of the more serious first-degree.) According to CNN, Potter’s sentencing date has been set for Feb. 18, 2022.

The jury — one Black person, two Asian American people and nine white people — convicted her of the first-degree charge by 11:40 am Tuesday. They reached a verdict on the lesser charge at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to jury forms read in court. One juror was seen shaking and crying as the verdict was announced, CNN reports.

Potter reportedly showed no emotion as the verdict was read. ABC News says that Potter’s defense had requested she be released on bail in time for Christmas. But the request was denied. Judge Regina Cho ordered Ms. Potter be immediately taken into custody. Potter was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs — the very same courtroom where former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

“We have a degree of accountability for Daunte’s death,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told reporters outside court. “Accountability is not justice. … Justice is beyond the reach that we have in this life for Daunte. But accountability is an important step, a critical, necessary step on the road to justice for us all,” he said.

Ellison said he felt sympathy for Potter and her family but added: “She will be able to correspond with them and sit with them no matter what happens. But the Wrights won’t be able to talk to Daunte.”  

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