Former Minnesota cop charged in shooting of Black motorist

Kim Potter/Courtesy Hennepin County

A Minnesota prosecutor has charged a white former suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright with second-degree manslaughter.

Posted: Apr 14, 2021 6:23 AM
Updated: Apr 14, 2021 8:04 PM

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) — A white former suburban Minneapolis police officer was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright in a shooting that ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police.

The charge against former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter was filed three days after Wright was killed during a traffic stop and as the nearby murder trial progresses for the ex-officer charged with killing George Floyd last May.


This photo provided by Ben Crump Law, PLLC. shows Daunte Wright and his son Daunte Jr., at his first birthday party. (Ben Crump Law, PLLC. via AP)

The former Brooklyn Center police chief has said that Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead. However, protesters and Wright’s family members say there’s no excuse for the shooting and that it shows how the justice system is tilted against Blacks, noting Wright was stopped for expired car registration and ended up dead.

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement announcing the charge against Potter. “(Potter’s) action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”

Intent isn’t a necessary component of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota. The charge — which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison — can be applied in circumstances where a person is suspected of causing a death by “culpable negligence” that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances to cause a death.

Potter posted $100,000 bond Wednesday evening and was released from the Hennepin County jail, online records showed. She was scheduled to make her initial court appearance Thursday afternoon. Her attorney did not respond to messages from The Associated Press.

Potter, 48, and Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned Tuesday, a day after the City Council voted to fire the city manager, who controls the police force. Acting City Manager Reggie Edwards said Wednesday that because Potter resigned, she is entitled to “all accrual and benefits that is due.” Mayor Mike Elliott has said that the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she submitted her resignation.

Police say Wright was pulled over for expired tags on Sunday, but they sought to arrest him after discovering he had an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

Body camera video that Gannon released Monday shows Potter approaching Wright as he stands outside of his car as another officer is arresting him.

As Wright struggles with police, Potter shouts, “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single shot from a handgun in her right hand.

The criminal complaint noted that Potter holstered her handgun on the right side and her Taser on the left. To remove the Taser — which is yellow and has a black grip — Potter would have to use her left hand, the complaint said.

Wright family attorney Ben Crump said the family appreciates the criminal case, but he again disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.

“Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant,” he said.

Experts say cases of officers mistakenly firing their gun instead of a Taser are rare, usually less than once a year nationwide.

Transit officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison after responding to a fight at a train station in Oakland, California, killing 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2009. Mehserle testified at trial that he mistakenly pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead of his stun gun.

In Oklahoma, a white volunteer sheriff’s deputy for Tulsa County, Robert Bates, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter after accidentally firing his handgun when he meant to deploy his stun gun on Eric Harris, a Black man who was being held down by other officers in 2015.

Potter was an instructor with Brooklyn Center police, according to the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. She was training two other officers when they stopped Wright, the association’s leader, Brian Peters, told the Star Tribune.

Brooklyn Center announced a curfew of 10 p.m. Wednesday — the fourth night in a row that the city has taken that action. Elliott, the mayor, urged people to protest without violence, saying “your voices have been heard.”

By 7:30 p.m., a crowd of a few hundred demonstrators had gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police headquarters for a fourth, tense night. Video showed one protestor carrying the head of a fake pig on a pole near a fence outside the heavily guarded station and police monitoring the crowd from the structure’s rooftop.

Outside Potter’s home in Champlin, north of Brooklyn Center, concrete barricades and tall metal fencing had been set up and police cars were in the driveway. After Floyd’s death last year, protesters demonstrated several times at the home of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer now on trial in Floyd’s death.

About 90 minutes before Tuesday's curfew, state police announced over a loudspeaker that the demonstration outside the city's heavily guarded police headquarters had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. Protesters launched fireworks toward the station and threw objects at officers, who launched flashbangs and gas grenades, then marched in a line to force back the crowd. The number of protesters plummeted over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave.

Brooklyn Center, a suburb just north of Minneapolis, has seen its racial demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Hispanic.

However, Elliott has acknowledged that the police force has "very few people of color.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 7376
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Hennepin1226641731
Ramsey51369875
Dakota45906452
Anoka41713438
Washington26899283
Stearns22238222
St. Louis17758304
Scott17275124
Wright16034140
Olmsted1324298
Sherburne1170887
Carver1049145
Clay815792
Rice8056107
Blue Earth750441
Crow Wing665089
Kandiyohi655783
Chisago599751
Otter Tail574978
Benton570297
Goodhue478072
Douglas467875
Mower465732
Winona454550
Itasca437556
McLeod423659
Isanti421364
Morrison419260
Nobles407748
Beltrami395559
Steele388315
Polk384168
Becker380253
Lyon360651
Carlton345254
Freeborn341729
Pine328622
Nicollet326143
Brown305440
Mille Lacs304553
Le Sueur291723
Todd282132
Cass272828
Meeker256340
Waseca236222
Martin230632
Roseau209019
Wabasha20533
Hubbard189341
Dodge18493
Renville180243
Redwood174337
Houston171816
Cottonwood164923
Fillmore156310
Wadena155922
Pennington153619
Faribault152319
Chippewa152238
Kanabec144626
Sibley143510
Aitkin134936
Watonwan13279
Rock128219
Jackson121812
Pipestone115426
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11026
Murray10639
Swift105218
Stevens91311
Marshall88117
Clearwater86816
Koochiching83315
Wilkin81512
Lake81119
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5768
Mahnomen5499
Norman5399
Unassigned50093
Kittson48622
Red Lake3967
Traverse3705
Lake of the Woods3253
Cook1640

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 367061

Reported Deaths: 5938
CountyCasesDeaths
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Linn20869335
Scott20044241
Black Hawk15813308
Woodbury15132228
Johnson1448383
Dubuque13374208
Dallas1118298
Pottawattamie11122168
Story1061748
Warren577988
Clinton555693
Cerro Gordo540389
Sioux514474
Webster512293
Marshall483075
Muscatine481199
Des Moines457166
Wapello4301122
Buena Vista424840
Jasper419272
Plymouth401280
Lee375855
Marion362575
Jones298957
Henry291837
Carroll285952
Bremer284560
Crawford266140
Boone264834
Benton256655
Washington253750
Dickinson248443
Mahaska230351
Jackson222142
Clay215625
Kossuth215364
Tama209771
Delaware209641
Winneshiek196934
Page192722
Buchanan191332
Cedar190023
Hardin185643
Fayette185141
Wright184637
Hamilton179949
Harrison179673
Clayton169556
Butler164934
Madison162319
Mills162222
Floyd160942
Cherokee158938
Lyon158041
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Iowa148824
Hancock148234
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Calhoun138513
Cass138554
Grundy136333
Emmet134340
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Sac130319
Union128333
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Mitchell126342
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