Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright after close to 28 hours of jury deliberations. Potter appeared somber as Judge Regina Chu read the verdict while her attorneys held her shoulders.
The jury took an extra hour to reach a verdict on the first-degree manslaughter charge, which required them to find that Potter recklessly handled a firearm.
“The 12 of you are heroes in this case,” Judge Chu said, noting that members of the jury agreed to hearing the case during a pandemic and knowing they could be sequestered beyond the Christmas holiday.
Joy and jubilation, particularly among family members, could be felt outside the courthouse as they listened to the court’s proceedings via live stream. Shortly after the verdict was announced, Wright’s brother Damik said in relief, “We’re happy with the guilty, guilty, and we’re not doing this for nobody but for my mom and my pops. We’re happy with the verdict and we’re happy with everything.”
Demonstrators then danced to a band playing “When The Saints Go Marching On.”
Potter was soon taken into custody without bail. Her attorneys tried to have her released on $100,000 bail, noting that she is not a flight risk, has been remorseful since she killed Wright, is deeply rooted in the community, and is a devout Catholic who celebrates Christmas. “I cannot treat this case differently from any other case,” Judge Chu said in deciding to take her into custody.
Potter is currently incarcerated at the women’s prison in Shakopee, and will not be able to receive visitors until at least January 17, 2022, due to the proliferating Omicron variant.
The prosecution intends to seek an upward departure to Potter’s sentence, alleging she abused her power as a police officer and was a danger to others. The defense also intends to seek a downward departure. They will argue their motions on January 31.
Potter will be sentenced at 9 am on February 18. Before sentencing, probation officers will complete a pre-sentencing report, which is prepared by a probation officer and addresses who Potter is as a person and as a criminal, what she did, and how her actions affected the community.
State sentencing guidelines call for concurrent sentencing based on the most serious charge; in Potter’s case, because she was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for killing Wright and has no prior criminal record, she faces just over eight and a half years in prison.
Attorney General Keith Ellison said at a press conference shortly after the verdict was delivered that Potter’s conviction is not necessarily an indictment of everyone in law enforcement. “We hold you in high regard and we also hold you to high standards.
“We don’t want you to be discouraged. We want you to uphold the highest ideals of our society and ideals of safety, and when a member of your profession is held accountable, it does not diminish you. In fact, it shows the whole world that those who enforce the law are also willing to live by it,” Ellison said.
Ellison added, “We have a degree of accountability in this case. Accountability is not justice. Justice would be restoring Daunte to life and making the family whole again.”
Henry Pan is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.