After nearly 28 hours of deliberations, a jury convicted former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter of both first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
Potter, who is White, shot and killed Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during an April 11 traffic stop. His shooting, which occurred during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, sparked three days of unrest and protests demanding justice for Wright.
The prosecution argued that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force and a trainer of officers, should have known the difference between a Taser and handgun and acted in a reckless and negligent manner when she shot Wright.
The defense argued that although Potter made a tragic mistake, Wright caused his own death by creating a chaotic scene when he attempted to evade arrest. They also maintained that Potter would have been within her rights to use deadly force in this instance because Wright might have dragged another officer with his car.
Potter now faces a 15-year maximum sentence and a $30,000 fine for the first-degree manslaughter charge, and a 10-year sentence and a $20,000 fine for the second-degree manslaughter charge. Because she has no criminal history, she is not likely to receive the maximum sentence, according to legal experts.
After the verdict was read, defense attorney Earl Gray asked that Potter be released on bail due to the holiday season and Potter being a “Catholic” who doesn’t pose a threat to the broader community. However, Judge Regina Chu denied the motion. “I cannot treat this case any differently than any other case,” Judge Chu said.
Potter was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. She will be held without bail until she is sentenced on February 18. The prosecution is arguing for aggravating factors, which Judge Chu will rule on. The defense, meanwhile, will request a downward departure of the sentencing.
Potter is the third police officer in modern Minnesota history to be convicted of criminal charges, following Chauvin, who is currently serving 22 1/2 years in prison for murdering Floyd in 2020; and Mohamed Noor, who was initially sentenced to 12 1/2 years for the shooting death of Justine Damond in 2017. Noor was recently resentenced to 57 months and is expected to enter supervised release next summer when he finishes serving two-thirds of his sentence.
About 200 people who had gathered outside of the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis erupted in cheers when the verdict was read Thursday afternoon.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and members of the Wright family addressed the public inside the courthouse. “At this moment, I ask us all of us to reflect on the life of Daunte Wright and who he could have been if given the chance to grow up,” Ellison said.
Ellison offered condolences to the Wright family and applauded the verdict that he said offers a “degree of accountability,” though not justice, as the verdict will not bring Wright back to life. Ellison added that his thoughts were also with Potter whom he noted had gone from an esteemed member of the community to someone convicted of a crime. He also offered words of encouragement to law enforcement who are policing justly.
Daunte Wright’s mother Katie Ann Bryant (also known as Katie Wright) also addressed reporters inside the courthouse. “The moment that we heard guilty on manslaughter one, I had every single emotion that you could imagine running through your body. I kinda let out a yelp,” when the verdict was read, she said. She said now that she’s had time to process the verdict a bit, she was thankful for the prosecution team, the community, and everyone else who supported the “long fight for accountability.”