Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken over the prosecution of Kimberly Potter, the now-former Brooklyn Center police officer who is charged in the death of Daunte Wright.
Ellison accepted Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's request to prosecute the case after Washington County Attorney Pete Orput charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter, per an agreement between metro county attorneys, and returned the case to Hennepin County.
“The Attorney General, the Washington County Attorney, and I are following the protocol the five urban county attorneys signed last summer, which includes asking the Attorney General to take police use of deadly force cases. The Potter case is now appropriately in the hands of the Attorney General," Freeman said in a statement.
Many, including Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot, Wright's family and protesters, have called for Ellison's office to handle the prosecution and have asked for more severe charges against Potter, who shot 20-year-old Wright during a traffic stop on April 11.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank will supervise Potter's prosecution. He was the presenting attorney in Derek Chauvin's trial, who was convicted this spring of murdering George Floyd. Ellison will actively assist in the case.
“I am pleased with today’s decision to have Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office lead the prosecution in the Daunte Wright case. I called on Gov. Tim Walz and Hennepin County Attorney General Mike Freeman to make this decision almost immediately following Daunte’s death. Ellison and his team successfully convicted Derek Chauvin to the fullest degree in the landmark George Floyd murder trial. I wanted to see this same level of prosecution in Daunte’s case. His family, friends and our community deserve it," Mayor Eliot said.
He added, "The City of Brooklyn Center will work collaboratively with Ellison’s office as they prepare to take over this case. I believe this is a milestone moment in our pursuit of justice. We will continue monitoring developments, but most importantly, our city will continue working with urgency to implement and execute the city council’s recently passed public safety reform resolution.”
The AG's office says the first step, which is underway, is reviewing the evidence and charges against Potter.
In a statement, Ellison said:
"Daunte Wright was a son, a brother, a father, a friend. When he died, he was only 20 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him.
"Daunte Wright’s death was a tragedy. He should not have died on the day that he did. He should not have died the way that he did. His parents, brothers, sisters, and friends must now live the rest of their lives without him. His son, only two years old, will grow up without his father. I have privately expressed my condolences and sorrow to the family and expect to work with them closely throughout the proceedings.
"The community of Brooklyn Center and people across Minnesota also continue to grieve Daunte’s death. I join them in that grieving. His death is a loss to all of us.
"I did not seek this prosecution and do not accept it lightly. I have had, and continue to have, confidence in how both County Attorney Orput and County Attorney Freeman have handled this case to date. I thank County Attorney Orput for the solid work he and his office have done, and I thank County Attorney Freeman once again for his confidence in my office. I appreciate their partnership as my office takes the lead on this case.
"Prosecutors are ministers of justice. This means we must and will follow justice wherever it leads. I promise the Wright family and all Minnesotans that I will handle this prosecution responsibly and consistent with the law, and that I will be guided by the values of accountability and transparency.
"No one, however, should expect this case will be easy to prosecute. History shows that this case, like all cases of officer-involved deaths by deadly force, will be difficult.
"We are not destined to repeat history. Once again, we in Minnesota find ourselves at a moment where a deadly-force encounter with police has galvanized our grief and focused our attention. If prosecutors ensure that prosecutions are vigorous and swift, if legislators at every level pass long-overdue reforms, if police leadership demonstrates misconduct has no place in the profession, and if community continues to keep up the cry for justice, we will break the cycle of history and establish a new standard for justice."