Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter has been sentenced to 24 months in the killing of Daunte Wright on April 11, 2021.
Potter, 49, was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in 20-year-old Wright's killing during a traffic stop, with Potter claiming she accidentally drew her gun instead of her Taser.
Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu sentenced Potter to 24 months in prison on Friday — a significant downward departure from sentencing guidelines. Potter was sentenced on the higher count, per Minnesota law.
"This is a cop who made a tragic mistake," Chu said, noting it is not the same as the deaths of George Floyd or Justine Ruszczyk Damond. She said the Potter's conduct was less serious than a typical manslaughter case.
Potter will have to serve 16 months in prison, and the rest on supervised release.
Chu said the downward departure in sentencing does not diminish Daunte Wright's life, "his life mattered," she said, and asked people to empathize with Potter's situation.
Prior to her being sentenced, Potter tearfully apologized for bringing death to Daunte Wright, "My heart is broken for all of you." She also apologized to Brooklyn Center for what's happened to the community in the wake of Daunte Wright's death, which sparked clashes between police and protesters.
Daunte Wright's family members spoke during the sentencing hearing. Katie Wright, his mom, spoke through tears, stating she'll continue to fight for her son until driving while Black is no longer a death sentence, adding she's proud to be Daunte's mom.
Arbuey Wright, Daunte Wright's father, also spoke, saying he was proud to be his father and he was his reason to do better.
"Everything we do as a family ends in tears because all we have is memories left of our son," Arbuey Wright said.
The maximum penalty for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years in prison, though judges have the discretion to sentence those with no criminal history to between about 6-8.5 years in prison.
Prosecutors sought more than seven years in prison for Potter but initially sought a sentence above state sentencing guidelines, which Chu said she felt compelled to address, noting the state failed to prove the aggravating factors it claimed.
Meanwhile, Potter's attorneys asked for a lesser sentence, citing her lack of criminal record. Chu said "there is no question" Potter is "extremely remorseful."
"This is one of the saddest cases I've had in my 20 years on the bench," Chu said.
On April 11, 2021, Wright was pulled over for what police say was an expired license tabs violation. During the stop, officers learned of an outstanding warrant for missing a court date for a weapons charge. Police said Wright got back into his vehicle as an officer tried to arrest him, at which point Potter pulled out a weapon and — moments after yelling "Taser! Taser!" — shot Wright.
Prosecutors said Wright's death was preventable and accused Potter, a 26-year veteran officer, of a "blunder of epic proportions" when she shot Wright, arguing making a mistake isn't a legitimate defense and she should have known better to grab her gun when she intended to grab her Taser, which was on the opposite side of her body.
Potter's lawyer said Potter made a mistake by firing her gun instead of using her Taser but argued she was justified in her actions. Attorney Earl Gray said Wright was to blame for the incident because he tried to flee from police, and Potter testified that she mistakenly grabbed her gun because the incident was chaotic.