Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput filed the charge against Potter, 48, of Champlin, Wednesday. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Potter at around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in St. Paul and she was booked into Hennepin County Jail at 12:07 p.m.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief and director of the Major Crime Unit, said in a news release.
"With that responsibility comes a great deal of discretion and accountability. We will vigorously prosecute this case and intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her taser. Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable," Ali added. "County Attorney Peter Orput and I met with the family, expressed our deepest sympathies and assured them we would spare no resources in seeking justice for Mr. Wright.”
According to a news release, citing the criminal complaint, at 1:53 p.m. on Sunday Brooklyn Center officer Anthony Luckey and Potter, his field training officer, pulled over Wright at 63rd and Orchard Avenues North. Luckey checked Wright's ID and determined he had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge.
At 2:01 p.m., Luckey and Potter approached Wright's driver's side door and asked Wright to get out and place his hands behind his back, the release said. Wright complied, and Luckey informed him he was being arrested.
Wright, a 26-year police veteran, and Luckey were standing just outside the driver's side door (it was open) and Potter was behind and to the right of Luckey, the release said. At 2:01:49, Wright pulled away from the officers and got back into the car.
At 2:01:55, Potter said she would use her Taser on Wright, but pulled her Glock 9mm handgun with her right hand and pointed it at Wright, saying again she'd Taser him. At 2:02 p.m., Potter said, "Taser, Taser, Taser" and pulled the trigger of her gun at 2:02:01 p.m., firing one shot into Wright's left side, the release said.
Wright immediately said, "Ah, he shot me," and sped away for a short distance before crashing into another vehicle, the release said. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.
After shooting her gun, Potter said, "Shit, I just shot him!" the release said.
Potter's gun was holstered on her right side, with her Taser on her left side, the release said. The grips of both handles faced the same direction. The Taser is yellow with a black grip and requires Potter to use her left hand to remove it from the holster.
What is second-degree manslaughter?
Second-degree manslaughter is defined in state law as a crime that involves a person acting with negligence, knowingly taking risks that lead to death or great bodily harm. Specifically, the law says it involves a crime where someone causes the death of another person:
- "By the person's culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; or
- "By shooting another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon as a result of negligently believing the other to be a deer or other animal; or
- "By setting a spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device; or
- "By negligently or intentionally permitting any animal, known by the person to have vicious propensities or to have caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, to run uncontrolled off the owner's premises, or negligently failing to keep it properly confined; or
- "By committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.378 (neglect or endangerment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby."
The charge carries a penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Potter, who was placed on standard administrative leave following Sunday's shooting, resigned on Tuesday after Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called for her firing and the Brooklyn Center City Council recommended she be fired. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned Tuesday after suggesting on Monday that Potter unintentionally shot Wright when she grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, with Gannon speculating that it was an "accidental discharge."
Wright's death has prompted three nights of sometimes violent protests in Brooklyn Center that led to an escalating response from police, which used armored vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowd Tuesday night.
Following Wright's death, Potter and her family, who lived in Champlin, relocated out of Minnesota, Champlin Police Chief Ty Schmidt told KARE 11. The news station also confirmed the shooting happened as Potter did field training with a rookie officer.
Potter is being represented by Earl Gray, the Star Tribune says. Gray has represented other Minnesota officers charged in similar cases, including Thomas Lane, who is charged in George Floyd's death, and Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Philando Castile, the Minnesota Reformer notes.
Calls for more serious charges
The Washington County Attorney's Office filed the charges against Potter after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman sent the case to Washington County per a new practice among metro area county attorneys. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the shooting.
Mayor Elliott had called for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office to handle the case (the AG's office is currently prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd).
“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back. This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force," Wright's family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement Wednesday. "Driving while Black continues to result in a death sentence.
"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. Daunte’s life, like George Floyd’s life, like Eric Garner’s, like Breonna Taylor’s, like David Smith’s meant something. But Kim Potter saw him as expendable," the statement continued.
"It’s past time for meaningful change in our country. We will keep fighting for justice for Daunte, for his family, and for all marginalized people of color. And we will not stop until there is meaningful policing and justice reform and until we reach our goal of true equality.”
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Meanwhile, activists are calling for more severe charges against Potter and for the Attorney General's Office to prosecute the case.