AG Ellison takes over after Washington County Attorney Orput returns the case
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Friday that he has accepted a request to lead the prosecution against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who is currently charged with second-degree manslaughter in the April 11, 2021, Brooklyn Center death of Daunte Wright.
The request comes from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after the Washington County Attorney’s Office, who charged Potter, returned the case to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, who is the manager of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office and was a presenting attorney in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, will supervise the case. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will provide staff to the Attorney General’s prosecution team. Attorney General Ellison, who led the prosecution of Chauvin, will actively assist. The first step, reviewing the evidence and charges laid against Potter, is already underway.
Attorney General Ellison released the following statement:
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.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput released the following statement:
“I want to thank Attorney General Ellison personally for his leadership and I’m grateful that he has agreed to take this case. I have the utmost confidence in him as Attorney General. I believe that the review and the prosecution of this case and cases like it belongs with the Attorney General, and I call on the Legislature to provide all the funding necessary so that his office can do this work.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released the following statement:
“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.”
Governor Tim Walz released the following statement:
“I am glad that Attorney General Ellison is taking the case. The First Lady and I were grateful to host the Wright family at the Residence this week and have an opportunity to honor the memory of their son Daunte. We heard their desire to have the strongest legal team possible to bring their family justice. No verdict will bring Daunte back to his family, but I have full faith that Attorney General Ellison will build the best team possible to pursue accountability for what happened that tragic day.”
Procedural history of the case to date
In accordance with a June 29, 2020 agreement among the Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington County Attorneys not to review or prosecute deaths arising from police use of deadly force in their own jurisdictions, Hennepin County Attorney Freeman referred the death of Daunte Wright at the hands of former officer Kim Potter in Brooklyn Center to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review on April 12, 2021. On April 14, 2021, the Washington County Attorney’s Office charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.205(1).
With the Washington County Attorney’s Office returning the case to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, County Attorney Freeman then asked Attorney General Ellison to assume review and prosecution of the case under the same protocol. The protocol is consistent with Minnesota Statutes Section 8.01, which authorizes the Attorney General to review and prosecute a criminal case upon request from a county attorney.
Working group on reducing deadly-force encounters with law enforcement
In February 2020—well before the deaths of George Floyd and Daunte Wright—Attorney General Ellison and Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner released 28 recommendations and 33 action steps for reducing deadly-force encounters with law enforcement that came from the Working Group on Reducing Deadly-Force Encounters that they first convened in August 2019. Those recommendations and action steps, as well as a 2021 Progress Report, are available on the Department of Public Safety website.
—Information provided by the Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison.