New York Daily News: December 23, 2021 – The former Minnesota cop who said she mistook her gun for her Taser during an arrest was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter Thursday in the death of Daunte Wright, whose mom let out a cry of relief as the verdict was read.
Kim Potter, who fatally shot the Black man in a Minneapolis suburb on April 11, sat stone-faced in the Minneapolis courtroom, showing little emotion, a far cry from her teary testimony earlier in the week.
Judge Regina Chu said she would be holding Potter, 49, without bail until her sentencing, but defense attorney Paul Engh objected, arguing that Potter is not a threat to the public or a flight risk and that, as a “devoted Catholic,” she deserved to be home for the holidays.
Sentencing has been set for Feb. 18. Potter faces up to 15 years for the first-degree manslaughter and 10 years for second-degree count, but prosecutors have said they plan to seek a longer sentence due to aggravating factors.
Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, said she let out a “yelp” in the courtroom after the first verdict.
She said she felt “every single emotion that you could imagine running through your body.”
In a statement, Wright’s family said they are “relieved.”
“From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training and protocols,” the statement read.
Potter was a 26-year law enforcement veteran when she killed Wright in the north Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. She testified that she meant to fire an electroshock charge from her Taser. Instead she fired a single fatal bullet.
“I remember yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser,’ and nothing happened, and then he told me I shot him,” Potter said through tears on the stand last week. “I’m sorry it happened.”
Jurors agreed with the prosecution’s narrative that Potter should have known better than to mistake her Taser and her firearm.
“This was not putting the wrong date on a check,” Minnesota assistant attorney general Erin Eldridge said Monday in closing arguments. “This was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions. It was precisely the thing she had been warned about for years and she was trained to prevent it.”
Outside the courthouse, crowds celebrated, with music and signs.
“Daunte could have done anything,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said during a press conference.
“What we know is that he was a young new dad and he was so proud of his son, Daunte Jr. We know that he loved his mom and loved his dad and loved his siblings and his big beautiful family… All of us miss out on who Daunte could have been.”
The guilty verdict is not justice, Ellison said, but rather accountability.
When asked what sentence his prosecutors would be seeking, Ellison said a “fair” one.
The jury, comprised of nine white people, two Asian people and one Black person, deliberated for four days before delivering the verdict.
Potter’s defense team argued that if she meant to pull the trigger, she would’ve been justified based on Wright’s actions.
Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was driving through Brooklyn Center with his girlfriend in the passenger seat when Potter and a trainee officer, Anthony Luckey, pulled him over for a busted taillight.
After stopping Wright, the officers learned there was a warrant for his arrest on a misdemeanor gun charge and asked him to step out of the car.
The officers moved to arrest Wright, then he got back into his car and attempted to drive off. That was when Potter threatened to use the Taser on the young man before fatally shooting him.
“Kim Potter’s defense team may have done more harm than good by advocating for the position that even if she had intended to fire her gun, that she would have been justified to use deadly force,” former defense attorney DeWitt Lacy, who was not involved in the case, told the Daily News. “That approach just muddied the waters for her defense.”
Prosecutors also focused on footage from Potter’s body-camera, which showed her holding the gun for 5-6 seconds before pulling the trigger. They emphasized that she took multiple Taser training courses shortly before she killed Wright.
“Today’s verdict is an act of accountability for the actions of one police officer in a system that regularly brutalizes Black, Indigenous and people of color,” Mirella Ceja-Orozco and Elizer Darris, co-executive directors of the Minnesota Freedom Fund, said in a joint statement Thursday.
“At the same time, no amount of prison time, money, or other forms of retribution can bring Daunte Wright back to his family and loved ones. That’s why this jury’s verdict is above all about the horrific loss of Mr. Wright, a young black man living in Minnesota, to police violence. We want to remember his life and uplift his family during this trying time. We long for the day that shootings like this aren’t initially shrugged off as just another example of police violence towards Black and brown people.”
The verdict came down in the same building — Hennepin County Courthouse — where Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. When Potter killed Wright, Chauvin’s trial was still ongoing just 10 miles south of the deadly traffic stop.
“The prosecution of Kim Potter stood in stark contrast to the Derek Chauvin trial where the Minneapolis police department’s top brass testified and condemned Chauvin’s conduct,” civil rights attorney V. James DeSimone, who was not involved in either case, told The News. DeSimone noted that Potter’s superiors stood by her.
“The jurors used their common sense in finding that, mistake or not, it was reckless and negligent to shoot a gun into the chest of a man behind the wheel of a car. No matter which way the prosecution sliced it, it was Officer Potter who created the risk of Daunte Wright’s death.
Crowd reacts to Kim Potter ‘Guilty’ verdict