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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ex-Cop Charged With Manslaughter in Death of Daunte Wright

Wright, a Black man, was shot less than 10 miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.

STILLWATER, Minn. (CN) —The former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, sparking more protests and law-enforcement crackdowns in the already tense Twin Cities metro, will be charged with second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The former Brooklyn Center officer, Kimberly Potter, has been arrested by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which handles officer-misconduct cases in Minnesota. 

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told local press about the charge against Potter, who resigned from the police department Tuesday, late Wednesday morning. Orput’s office is handling the case as part of an agreement between several Twin Cities metro county attorneys to prosecute each other’s police-killing cases to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. Brooklyn Center is in Hennepin County. 

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County’s assistant criminal division chief, 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.”

Ali added that he and Orput met with Wright’s family, “expressed our deepest sympathies and assured them we would spare no resources in seeking justice for Mr. Wright.” 

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott called on Tuesday for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office to take over the case after activists said the manslaughter arrangement wasn’t enough. Such a move would mirror one taken last summer in the turbulent aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Ellison’s office is now prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murder in that case, less than 10 miles away as the crow flies from the site of Wright’s death. 

Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police department, was training a new officer early Sunday afternoon when they stopped Wright’s car for an expired tag. Finding that he had a warrant, the officers attempted to detain Wright, a Black man. When he got back into his car, Potter said “I’m gonna Tase you” and shouted “Taser, Taser, Taser” before shooting him once. 

The county attorney’s office statement noted that Potter’s Taser was yellow with a black grip and on the left side of her duty belt in a straight-draw position, meaning she would have to use her left hand to unholster it. 

Potter’s attorney Earl Gray, who is also defending fired Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane against aiding-and-abetting charges for Floyd’s death, did not respond to a request for comment. 

A warrant for Wright’s arrest shows that he failed to make a first appearance in court for two charges filed in March, including carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor, and fleeing police, a misdemeanor. 

Wright’s death triggered three days of protests in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of about 30,000 which borders Minneapolis’ North Side, home to much of the city's Black population. Curfews were enforced across the Twin Cities metro on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, and Governor Tim Walz has activated the National Guard, which combined with a massive multi-jurisdictional task force aimed at addressing concerns about protests during and after Chauvin’s trial to form what he called “the largest police presence in Minnesota history.”

Protests have continued regardless, often including violent confrontations with police and occasional looting and other crime. Law enforcement responded with heavy use of tear gas and “less-lethal” munitions, despite a resolution by the Brooklyn Center City Council to stop their use.

Elliott noted in his Tuesday press conference that the resolution applied only to the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Neighbors complained of gas wafting into their homes, and many members of the press objected to law enforcement’s orders that they, too, had to leave the area when dispersal orders were given to protesters. 

State Patrol Chief Matthew Langer reported early Wednesday that over 60 people were arrested Tuesday night, and displayed a range of items thrown at police. Minneapolis police confirmed to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that no looting or burglaries were reported that night. Several such reports surfaced on Sunday and Monday nights. 

Law enforcement also erected barricades around Potter’s home in the third-ring suburb of Champlin, possibly anticipating a repeat of protests at Chauvin’s home in Washington County last summer.

Elliott noted during his press conference that none of Brooklyn Center’s 49 sworn police officers live in the city limits. “We do feel strongly that we need officers to be from the community,” he said.

The same issue arose during protests of Floyd’s death; only 8% of Minneapolis’ officers live in the city. A state law forbids cities from imposing residency requirements, like one that Minneapolis had in the mid-1990s.

Categories / Criminal, Regional

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