Cop Who Shot Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota Has First Court Appearance

Brooklyn Center Police Department Squad Car by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The former police officer who shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright to death on April 11 has been charged with second degree manslaughter. 

Former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter made her first court appearance today for gunning down Wright during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb. 

Wright’s death has led to days of rioting and protests from BLM and angry citizens, outraged over Potter’s actions. She quit her job on April 13. 

The Brooklyn Center police say Potter confused her gun with her taser and was not intending to shoot Wright, but his family says they don’t believe her. 

Others question why Wright, a 26-year-veteran of the force, was allowed to be an officer if she was prone to making such a stupid mistake. 

Brooklyn Center, Minnesota by Doug Wallick is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Shooting of Daunte Wright

According to details that have now been released, Potter was training a junior officer when she made the traffic stop. She pulled over Wright and found that he was driving with expired tags, but when running his info they also found there was a warrant out on him for failing to appear in court. 

Wright had been wanted in court on charges that he ran away from officers and had a gun illegally during an encounter with Minneapolis police last summer. This clearly put Potter on high alert, and when Wright ran to re-enter the vehicle while the other officer was trying to arrest him, Potter demanded he stop:

Body camera footage shows her yelling “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you!” as Wright ducks to get back in the car.

Potter then yells “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before discharging her handgun, fatally wounding the 20-year-old Black man. 

The police department’s claim that it was accidental is not being believed by the Wrights, whose lawyer Ben Crump said “Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant.”

What Happens Next?

At this point, Potter is charged with second degree manslaughter after being arrested April 14 and then released on $100,000 bond. Protests are rocking the area, with the nation also awaiting the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd. 

Washington County Assistant Criminal Division Chief Imran Ali said Potter’s actions are not excusable. 

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer. (Potter’s) action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable,” Ali said.

It’s important to note that for a second degree manslaughter charge – with up to 10 years behind bars – you don’t need to have intended to kill someone. You simply need to have killed them through neglect or recklessness that makes you guilty of their death. 

In addition to Potter, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon both quit on Tuesday, and the city manager was also fired. 

Similar cases in the past have not drawn the maximum 10 year jail sentence. Transit cop Johannes Mehserle got two years in jail for involuntary manslaughter when he gunned down 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2009 while trying to stop a brawl at an Oakland, California train stop. 

In 2015, a volunteer deputy for the Tulsa County Sherriff called Robert Bates was also handed a second degree manslaughter charge after grabbing his gun instead of his taser and killing a Black man called Eric Harris who was being held down by other cops. 

It’s clear that Potter either went ballistic and murdered someone or lost her head in the heat of the moment and pulled the wrong weapon. Either possibility is extremely unacceptable, and it’s clear that better training and policing is needed to avoid such tragedies in the future.