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Cop who killed Daunte Wright sentenced to 2 years  

Former Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter will be eligible for supervised release in April 2023.

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — A Minnesota judge sentenced former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter to two years Friday morning for the killing of Black man Daunte Wright.

Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu called Potter’s case “one of the saddest cases I’ve had in my 20 years on the bench,” and began tearing up after passing down the sentence. Potter is set to serve 16 months in prison and eight months on supervised release.

Wright’s parents decried the decision in statements after court adjourned.

“Today, the justice system murdered him all over again,” Wright’s mother Katie Bryant said. “White women tears trump justice.” 

Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, agreed: “They were so tied up in her feelings, they forgot my son was killed.” 

Potter, now 49, shot 20-year-old Wright as he attempted to flee a traffic stop in April 2021, inflaming tensions in a Twin Cities metro already on edge during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. Potter shouted “Taser, Taser, Taser” just before killing Wright, and has maintained that she pulled her gun by mistake. She was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in December after over 25 hours of jury deliberations. 

Chu denied prosecutors’ requests that she find aggravating factors, and asked that Wright’s supporters empathize with Potter’s situation. The 26-year veteran of the police force has been in solitary confinement in Minnesota’s women’s prison in Shakopee since her conviction. Chu accounted for Potter’s 58 days of time served in her sentence. 

The judge contrasted the case with the murder convictions of Chauvin and Mohamed Noor, former Minneapolis police officers.

“This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine and a half minutes as he was gasping for air,” she said. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake.” 

In a statement issued after the hearing, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asked that Minnesotans accept Chu’s decision, and stressed that the sentence “takes nothing away from the truth of the jury’s verdict. I know it is hurtful to loved ones of Daunte Wright. I ask that we remember the beauty of Daunte Wright, to keep his memory in our hearts, and to know that no number of years in prison could ever capture the wonder of this young man’s life.”

“There is no cause for celebration: no one has won,” he continued. “We have all lost, none more than Daunte Wright and the people who love him.” 

Wright’s parents and the mother of his child spoke bitterly Friday morning about Wright’s killing at the sentencing hearing.

“The defendant left us with memories and a picture. I have to grieve in public. The whole world sees my crying face,” Bryant said. 

Rather than render aid, “she rolled around on the ground crying for herself,” Bryant said of Potter. “‘I shot a boy. I’m going to prison. Call Chuck’ – Her union rep.” 

Wright’s father cast aspersions on Potter’s Taser claim and mourned the father his grandson Daunte Wright Jr. would not have. Chyna Whitaker, Daunte Jr.’s mother, said that she is now beset by extreme anxiety whenever police pull her over, and that her son, now 2, was missing out on time spent with his father. 

“How will my son learn to trust police after what happened to his dad?” she asked. “I don’t want my son to grow up hating police or being afraid of them.” 

A demonstrator carries a Black Lives Matter sign in front of other demonstrators calling for Kimberly Potter's release on probation in Minneapolis on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Nicole Neri)

Prosecutors asked Chu to give Potter the presumptive sentence in a new filing on Tuesday. State sentencing guidelines place the range for first-degree manslaughter with no criminal history between 6 and 8 1/2 years, with a presumptive sentence just over 7 years. 

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In an earlier memorandum, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank argued that Potter created a greater-than-normal danger to Wright, his passenger and the public when she shot him and sent his car careening into another and that she abused her position of authority by doing so.

In court Friday, Frank paid reference to the tragedy of the situation.

“We don’t doubt that Ms. Potter has remorse, but… this is a courtroom full of pain and anger. How do we fix that? What can we do?” he asked. “This is a divided community. What can be done to help restore some of the faith and trust between law enforcement and the community, in particular in this case? What can be done to help the Wright family through their pain and their loss? What can be done, even to help Ms. Potter deal with the consequences of what she has done?”

He also referenced restorative justice options, but said that those decisions were up to Wright’s family. 

Potter briefly and tearfully addressed the Wright family.

“My heart is broken and devastated for all of you,” she said, apologizing for Wright’s loss. “I do pray that one day you can find forgiveness, only because hatred is so destructive to all of us. And I pray peace will always be with you and your family.” 

She also apologized to the community of Brooklyn Center and asked that they retain faith in their police force. “The men and women who work for you still are good, honorable people, and will work hard for you,” she said. 

The majority of Tuesday’s prosecution memo was spent rebutting defense attorneys Earl Gray and Paul Engh’s arguments for a downward dispositional departure. Engh pointed out that Potter had no prior criminal history and argued that as a police officer, she would be “a walking target in prison.” He also said that Potter’s resignation from the police force gave her “no ability to recidivate,” and that her televised trial left her “branded for the rest of her life.” 

In court, Engh addressed Potter’s smiling mugshot – “Ms. Potter indicates that they asked her to smile, she smiled” – and brought out a box of supportive letters she’d received while in jail. 

“This is just one of three,” he said. “For those of you who are watching, she will answer you, because she always has.” 

He pointed out that Potter was attempting to arrest Wright for a warrant. “We’d like the court to acknowledge that orders of the court do matter and should be followed," he said.

That echoed an argument from Engh’s memo that Potter’s conviction would deter others from joining police forces.

“Who is going to work for Brooklyn Center?” he wrote in the memo. “One of the messages sent to patrol officers by the attorney general is this: if you think about stopping a car nowadays, think again. It’s not worth the risk.” 

Frank, in his memo, gave that argument little credence. While he agreed that Potter was unlikely to recidivate, he called Engh’s political concerns “an attempted diversion from [Potter’s] own culpability” and said that “taken to its logical extension, defendant Potter’s argument here is that any time a police officer acts to restrain a person, but does so recklessly or inappropriately, the officer should receive a shorter sentence than other defendants charged with the same crime.” 

Potter was fined $1,000 in addition to her prison sentence. She will be eligible for supervised release in April 2023. 

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