• Sun. May 16th, 2021

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Ex-officer Kim Potter to be charged with 2nd-degree manslaughter in Daunte Wright case

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The former Minnesota police officer who was captured on camera fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic stop was arrested in connection with Wright’s death, authorities said Wednesday.

Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was taken into custody about 11:30 a.m. at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul, officials said.

She will be charged with second-degree manslaughter in connection with Wright’s death, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.

Wright, who is Black, died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, which classified the manner of death as a homicide.

Daunte Wright.via Facebook

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family, said he received word about the charges while sitting on a panel discussion alongside the mothers of other young Black males killed by police.

“The reason why we are getting due process so quickly in the state of Minnesota for the killing of Daunte Wright is because of the blood of their children,” Crump told reporters in New York City.

Without the attention paid to the slayings of Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Crump speculated that charges in the Wright matter might not have been possible.

Wright’s older brother told NBC News that the family was hoping for a more serious charge to be filed against Potter.

“I’m not too happy about it but I’ll take every win I can get at the moment,” Dallas Bryant, 23, said. The victim’s brother added that he expected protests would continue despite the charge. “My family wants peace. Me and our family are going to try and do it the right way.”

Potter and Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon turned in their badges Tuesday in the wake of Wright’s death, which occurred just 14 miles north of where George Floyd was killed last year.

The day before he resigned, Gannon told reporters that he believed the officer meant to draw a Taser but “drew their handgun instead of their Taser.” A short clip of body-camera video released Monday showed Wright trying to get back in his car as a female voice could be heard shouting, “Taser!”

The same female voice could later be heard saying, “Holy s— I just shot him,” as the car pulled away, police said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, appearing alongside Crump in New York on Wednesday, said the second-degree manslaughter charge was “the least she should get.”

“The least … when you look at the fact that you’re dealing with a 26-year veteran,” Sharpton said. “If she didn’t know in 26 years the difference in size and weight of a gun as opposed to a Taser, then how was she a veteran in policing? How was she even on the force that long?”

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said she could hear officers telling her son to exit the car when he called her during the stop.

“Daunte asks, ‘For what?’ The police officer said, ‘I’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.’ He said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ He said, ‘We’ll explain all of that when you step out of the car,'” Katie Wright said.

The phone hung up, but minutes later she reconnected in a video call, and her son’s passenger picked up, telling her that Wright had been shot.

“She pointed the phone toward the driver’s seat, and my son was laying there unresponsive,” Katie Wright said. “That was the last time that I have seen my son. That was the last time I’ve heard from my son, and I have had no explanation since then.”

Officer Kim Potter in 2007.Bruce Bisping / Star Tribune via Getty Images file

Wright family attorneys Crump, Jeff Storms and Anthony Romanucci said in a statement that the district attorney’s charging decision was only a step in the right direction.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” they said in a statement. “This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force.”

“A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a taser and a firearm. Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant,” they said. “It’s past time for meaningful change in our country.”

“A badge should never be a shield to accountability. Daunte Wright was brutally killed by a police officer, and justice must prevail,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP President, said in a statement.

Wright’s death at the hands of a white police officer raised the already high tensions for Minnesotans as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the killing of Floyd, whose death sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and renewed calls to end police brutality last summer.

Minnesota has been the national focal point of several notable police shootings in recent years.

In April 2019, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the slaying of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white dual citizen of the United States and Australia.

Damond called police on July 15, 2017 to report what she believed to be a sexual assault happening in her neighborhood. When she went outside to greet the responding officers, Noor said he mistook her for a “threat” and fired a fatal shot.

He was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison.

In June 2017, a jury acquitted St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez for fatally shooting Black school cafeteria worker Philando Castile during a traffic stop a year earlier.

The incident drew national attention because the deadly encounter was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend and passenger, Diamond Reynolds. She said Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed.

And earlier, two white Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old Black man, Jamar Clark, were not charged in connection to the fall 2015 encounter.

Police said Clark was suspected of assaulting his girlfriend and then interfered with paramedics who were treating her. Officers insisted Clark was reaching for their weapons during a struggle, while critics of the decision not to file charges said the man was unarmed and didn’t need to be shot.

Hampton reported from Brooklyn Center, Wong reported from New York.