Ex-Cop Who Mistook Gun for Taser Appears in Court

Kimberly Potter was released on bail after being charged with second-degree manslaughter for the shooting of Daunte Wright.

A law enforcement officer tosses a demonstrator’s sign that reads “Justice for Wright” back over a perimeter fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter made her first appearance in court Thursday afternoon after her arrest on a manslaughter charge for the Sunday killing of 20-year-old Black man Daunte Wright. 

Potter, who is white, posted bond for $100,000 bail and was released from jail Thursday morning, and appeared before Judge Paul Scoggin via Zoom for the hearing at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis early Thursday afternoon. The facility is just across the street from where testimony in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd wrapped up on Thursday morning. 

Potter faces a second-degree manslaughter charge for shooting Wright during a traffic stop in the suburb of 30,000 just north of Minneapolis. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said on Monday that Potter had mistaken her gun for her Taser. She resigned her position with the department on Tuesday, as did Gannon. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s office announced the manslaughter charge on Wednesday. His office, rather than Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s, is prosecuting the case against Potter as part of an agreement forged last summer by five Twin Cities Metro county attorneys to take on each other’s police-misconduct cases. 

This booking photo shows Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer who is charged with second-degree manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright. (Hennepin County Sheriff via AP)

The former officer appeared alongside her attorney Earl Gray, who is also defending former Minneapolis officer Thomas Lane against aiding-and-abetting charges for his role in Floyd’s death. Lane was one of two junior officers who restrained Floyd’s back and legs while Chauvin knelt on his neck and upper back. Gray also defended St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez when he was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and negligent discharge charges for shooting Philando Castille in 2016.  

The hearing, which was publicly viewable but not allowed to be recorded or televised, was brief, with Gray and Potter quickly confirming that Potter understood her bail conditions and that the court’s information on her was correct — “unfortunately,” Gray said, in the case of her address. Potter’s home in Champlin, Minnesota, has been fortified with police barricades, likely in anticipation of protests like those which took place last summer at Chauvin’s home in the Washington County city of Oakdale. Protests and confrontations with police have raged every night in the days since Wright’s killing, but have been centered at the Brooklyn Center Police Department. 

Body camera footage shows Potter threatening to use her Taser on Wright, who was getting back in his car after being pulled over for expired tabs and told he was under arrest for an outstanding warrant, before shouting “Taser, Taser, Taser” and shooting him in the chest or abdomen. “Oh, shit. I just shot him,” she could be heard saying as the car, with Wright slumped in the front seat and his girlfriend in the passenger seat, drove away. It came to a stop a few blocks away upon hitting another car. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene. 

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

Wright’s family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also netted a $27 million settlement for Floyd’s family from the city of Minneapolis earlier this year. Crump appeared with the Wright family at a press conference shortly before Potter’s hearing.

“There is no justice for them, because justice would mean Daunte not being killed,” he said. “The only thing they can ask for… is for accountability.” 

He contrasted the situation to that of Mohamed Noor, the only Minnesotan police officer to be convicted of murder in recent history. Noor, a Black Somali man, shot Justine Ruczyck Damond, a white woman, in 2018 and was convicted of third-degree murder in 2019.

Crump argued that Potter’s shooting of Wright was still more severe, holding up photos of the Taser model Potter was carrying and the Glock pistol model she shot Wright with. “You did not have all of this in Officer Noor’s situation. It was daylight,” he said.

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