The trial of Kimberly Potter, a former police officer charged with manslaughter after she appeared to mistake her pistol for her taser and fatally shot Daunte Wright, will begin jury selection on Tuesday.
Ms. Potter, 49, was arrested in April just days after she shot Mr. Wright, 20, during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis after Mr. Wright broke away from another officer who tried to handcuff him. When Mr. Wright was back in the driver’s seat of his car, Mrs. Potter issued a warning, suggested she use her taser, and fired a single shot, killing Mr. Wright.
The shooting occurred on a Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, during the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was eventually convicted of the murder of George Floyd.
The murder of Mr. Wright, who was black, by Mrs. Potter, who is white, drew thousands of protesters to the Brooklyn Center Police Department for a week. At night, people threw water bottles, rocks, and other objects at a line of police officers stationed in front of the building; police fired tear gas, foam bullets and other projectiles at protesters and arrested hundreds of people that week.
As of this week, both the former police officer’s lawyers and prosecutors were expected to interview potential jurors for Ms. Potter’s trial, which will begin in earnest on December 8 with opening statements.
What happened during the shooting?
Mrs. Potter, who resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department shortly after the shooting, had trained another officer, Anthony Luckey, on April 11 when they apprehended Mr. Wright.
Prosecutors have said Officer Luckey Mr. Wright said he was arrested because the Buick he was driving had expired, as evidenced by an outdated sticker label on the car’s license plate, and because of an air freshener dangling. out of his rear view mirror, which is a traffic violation.
The officers entered Mr. Wright’s name into their computer system and found that a judge had issued a warrant for his arrest after he missed a court hearing on two felony charges. Those charges, of carrying a gun without a license and running away from the police, arose from a meeting with Minneapolis police officers in June 2020.
Mrs. Potter and Officer Luckey returned to Mr. Wright’s car and asked him to get out, body camera images showed. When the officers informed Mr. Wright that there was an open warrant and Officer Luckey began to handcuff him, Mr. Wright freed himself from the officer’s grip and got back behind the wheel.
The bodycam footage showed Officer Luckey trying to pull Mr. Wright out of the car while Mrs. Potter drew a weapon and pointed it at Mr. Wright. She yelled, “I’ll Tase you!” and then “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before putting a bullet in Mr. Wright’s chest.
After Mrs. Potter fired the gun, as the video shows, she cursed and said, “I just shot him.” Agent Luckey and a sergeant who had arrived at the scene seemed stunned. After the shot was fired, Mr. Wright down the street and came to a stop when he hit another car.
In the charges against Mrs. Potter, a special agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, described additional body camera images that have not been released publicly. The officer, Charles Phill, wrote that moments after the shooting, Mrs Potter had used an expletive, lamenting that she had “grabbed the wrong gun” and said a minute later, “I’m going to jail.”
mr. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:18 p.m., 16 minutes after he was shot.
What are the charges and possible penalties?
Prosecutors in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have filed two charges against Ms. Potter: first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.
To convict Mrs. Potter of first-degree manslaughter, jurors would have to determine that Mrs. Potter caused Mr. Wright’s death while recklessly handling her weapon with “so much violence and violence” that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that someone would be killed or seriously injured.
To convict her on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, the jurors would have to find that Mrs. Potter had caused Mr. Wright’s death through negligence, created an “unreasonable risk” and knowingly took the chance to kill someone. inflict death or great damage. injury.
Neither charges suggest she intended to Mr. to kill Wright.
The standard sentence for a conviction for first degree murder is about seven years, although the maximum sentence is 15 years. For second-degree manslaughter, the standard sentence is four years in prison and a maximum of 10 years.
If Ms Potter is convicted, the exact sentence will be up to a judge, although prosecutors have said they intend to demand a sentence more severe than the standard sentence. They also indicated that state law would require Ms Potter to serve at least three years in prison if convicted of either charge.
When Mrs. Potter was first arrested, she was only charged with second-degree manslaughter. But after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the case, prosecutors with his office added the more serious manslaughter charge.
Who can testify during the trial and who are the lawyers?
After 12 jurors have been selected for the trial, Ms. Potter’s prosecutors and attorneys will make opening statements and call witnesses.
Among the witnesses who may be vital to the case are the two officers who were with Mrs Potter during the traffic stop. Other potential witnesses may include supervisors who have worked with Ms. Potter, as well as Mr. Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright.
The lawyers of Mrs. Potter have filed a list of 18 potential witnesses with the court, including Timothy Gannon, who resigned as head of the Brooklyn Center Police Department after the shooting.
Ms. Potter represent Paul Engh and Earl Gray, attorneys who are part of the legal defense fund of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, a group that represents thousands of law enforcement officers in the state.
The lead prosecutor is Matthew Frank, an assistant attorney general who was also the lead prosecutor in Chauvin’s trial.
The judge overseeing the case is Regina M. Chu, who was appointed in 2002 when Jesse Ventura was governor.
Who was Daunte Wright?
mr. Wright was remembered by friends as a cheerful character who loved to play basketball and was a supportive father to his son, Daunte Jr., who was one year old when Mr. Wright was murdered.
“He always said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” Mr. Wright’s mother Katie Wright said at his funeral in April. “Junior was the joy of his life and he lived for him every day, and now he won’t be able to see him again.”
In the days and weeks after Mr. Wright revealed he had several criminal charges and was charged with being involved in two violent encounters.
Just over a month after the death of Mr. Wright sued a mother over his estate, claiming that Mr. Wright shot her son in the head in Minneapolis in May 2019, leaving him crippled. The mother’s lawsuit says her son had been childhood friends with Mr. Wright, but that they had an argument and that her son Mr. Wright had “beaten” in May 2019, which Mr. Wright may have motivated to retaliate.
The lawsuit provides no direct evidence linking Mr. Wright to the shooting, and the Minneapolis police have made no arrests or commented on the lawsuit’s claims.
A lawyer for Mr. Wright’s estate has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, and Ms. Wright has said the claims are hurtful.
“It’s pretty bad to walk around with such allegations, whether they’re true or not,” she said in an interview with The Star Tribune.
In addition to the pending gun possession charges that led to the injunction, Mr. Wright was also charged with robbing a woman at gunpoint in December 2019.
Many who Mr. Wright, have said that he was a man who made mistakes but made his life better.
A friend, Emajay Driver, said that Mr. Wright “loved making people laugh.” As a freshman in high school in Minneapolis, Mr. Wright was elected class clown. “There was never a dull moment,” said Mr. driver.
In the eulogy at the funeral of Mr. Wright called Mr. Al Sharpton Mr. Wright called the “Prince of Brooklyn Center” and said police hadn’t known how many lives Mr. Wright perked up.
What do we know about Kimberly Potter?
Mrs. Potter was an officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years before resigning after the shooting.
She served as a field training officer and trained a less experienced colleague, Agent Luckey, when she met Mr. Wright shot. She also chaired the police union in recent years, prosecutors said.
Her husband was also a police officer for 28 years in Fridley, Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from Brooklyn Center. Before retiring, her husband had been an instructor in the department, training officers on things like using tasers and how and when to use force, according to a city newsletter.
How often do cops confuse a gun with a taser?
While it’s not common, there have been several instances where police officers accidentally fired their weapons when they were planning to pull out their tasers.
In 2018, a Kansas rookie police officer accidentally shot a man who was fighting with a colleague. In 2019, a Pennsylvania police officer yelled “Taser!” before shooting an unarmed man in the torso. And in one of the most publicized cases, a white Bay Area Rapid Transit agency police officer said he had intended to fire his taser when he fatally shot Oscar Grant III, who was black, while Mr. train lay platform on New Years Day in 2009.
In April, The New York Times reported that of the 15 alleged gun confusion cases in the past two decades, a third of officers were charged and three — including the only two cases in which people were killed — were found guilty.
Will Wright reporting contributed.