Veteran Cop Who Killed Daunte Wright Charged With Second-Degree Manslaughter

Hennepin County Sheriff
Hennepin County Sheriff

The Brooklyn Center police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright, after allegedly mistaking her handgun for a Taser during a traffic stop, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree manslaughter, a person with direct knowledge told The Daily Beast.

Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center force, was arrested at 11:30 a.m., the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said. According to jail records, she was booked into Hennepin County Jail at around 12:07 p.m. on probable cause of second-degree manslaughter and was released by Wednesday evening after posting a $100,000 bond.

The Washington County Attorney’s Office also announced the charges on Wednesday following days of civil unrest in Minneapolis over the death of Wright, who was shot in the chest by Potter after being pulled over for expired tabs.

According to a criminal complaint, a BCA investigator “examined Potter’s duty belt and saw that the handgun is holstered on the right side of the belt and her Taser is on the left side. The grips or handles of both the gun and Taser face Potter’s rear. The Taser is yellow with a black grip.”

Since the Taser is set in a straight-draw position, Potter would had to have used her left hand to pull it out of its holster, prosecutors say.

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“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 statement. “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.”

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput met with Wright’s family and their attorneys on Tuesday night to inform them of the decision to charge Potter, KSTP reports. In a statement, family attorney Ben Crump said that “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. 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,” Crump said.

The arrest comes one day after Potter and the Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon resigned from the department.

“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter said in a Tuesday letter to city officials.

The complaint states that Officer Anthony Luckey and his field training officer, Officer Potter, pulled over Wright, a Black man, for expired car tabs on Sunday afternoon. After running his name, Luckey discovered Wright had an outstanding gross misdemeanor warrant and tried to take him into custody. Body-cam footage of the arrest showed one officer yanking Wright from his car to handcuff him—but he then tried to go back inside.

During a struggle, Potter is seen pulling out her Glock 9mm handgun with her right hand and pointing it at Wright while yelling, “Taser Taser!” She pulled the trigger one second later, firing a single shot into Wright’s left side, the complaint states. Apparently realizing she had actually used her firearm, she can be heard saying, “Holy shit, I shot him.”

“Ah, he shot me,” Wright said, according to the complaint as the car sped off for a few blocks before crashing into another car. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined he died of a gunshot wound and that his death was a homicide.

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The incident, deemed an “accidental discharge” by then police chief Gannon, spurred violent protests in Minneapolis—a city already on edge amid the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

“Every pistol has a safety. She saw that she had to release that. That woman held that gun out in front of her for a long damn time,” Daunte Wright’s aunt, Naisha Wright, said during a Tuesday press conference along with the Floyd family and other local civil leaders. “My nephew’s blood is on y’all hands.”

During a Wednesday press conference alongside the mothers of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, Crump said it was “the blood of their children” that led to the quick charges against Potter.

“An arrest is just step one. We have to get a conviction. We are not going anywhere,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said Wednesday

Crump added on Wednesday: “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. It’s past time for meaningful change in our country.”

This is not the first time that Potter has been involved in a police shooting investigation. In 2019, Potter—who was the police union president at the time—was the first cop to arrive on the scene after police officers had fatally shot Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old who was on the autism spectrum.

“Officer Potter instructed Officers Turner and Akers to exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body-worn cameras, and to not talk to each other,” states a report issued by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. On Aug. 5, nearly a year after the fatal shooting, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office announced no charges would be filed against the two officers who shot Dimock-Heisler.

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