Former Minnesota police officer convicted by jury of first and second degree manslaughter for shooting and shooting Daunte Wright
By Julia Urquizo and Casey Rawlings
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Former Minnesota Police Officer Kimberly Potter on Thursday was convicted by a jury of two counts of manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, a young black motorist, during a a routine traffic stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Potter was charged with first degree and second degree manslaughter by a majority white jury for shooting Daunte on April 11, 2021, with his pistol instead of discharging his taser.
Daunte was 20 years old at the time of her death and her family and friends remembered her bright smile and outgoing demeanor.
Daunte was also a father and was well known as a devoted father to her toddler, Daunte Jr., who was almost two years old. As a freshman at Thomas Edison High School, Daunte was voted “Class Clown.”
Defense attorneys Earl Gray, Paul Engh and Amanda Montgomery have claimed Potter mistakenly dispersed his pistol instead of taser after Wright allegedly resisted arrest during the traffic stop.
Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, told reporters her son called her when he was arrested.
At a press conference outside a Minneapolis courthouse days after the shooting, Katie was joined by Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend and Daunte’s former professor.
According to National Public Radio, Potter said she feared Wright might be armed since he had an arrest warrant related to a gun charge. No weapons were found in Wright’s vehicle.
The defense and prosecution argued throughout the jury trial over whether Potter had any reason to draw a gun and whether she should have been able to distinguish the heavy handgun from the taser.
The defense argued that although Potter made what they call a mistake, his ability to draw a weapon was warranted by the time Wright began to resist arrest and ignore requests from the forces of the United States. order.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge countered that in Potter’s 26 years of service in the force, she had received extensive training in how to distinguish between a handgun and a tasers.
Prosecutors also maintained that anyone with said training as a police officer should be well equipped to differentiate between a tasers and a firearm.
National Public Radio quoted Eldridge as saying, âIt wasn’t a little oopsy. It wasn’t putting the wrong date on a check. It wasn’t by entering the wrong password somewhere. It was a colossal mistake, a blunder of epic proportions. This was precisely the thing she had been warned against for years, and she had been trained to prevent it.
Potter is currently in custody without bail pending his conviction in February. First degree manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 15 years, while second degree manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of seven years.
A year before the deadly Daunte shooting, Potter had been one of the first at the scene of the Kobe Dimock-Heisler shooting, which took place as police responded to a call for domestic disturbances.
Although they never knew each other, Heisler and Wright were both from Brooklyn Center and were about the same age when they were killed by police.
As Daunte’s life advocates await Potter’s decision on sentencing, many calls for justice have emerged.
Calls for reform include those to dissociate routine roadside checks from the police, due to the disproportionate number of black drivers, such as Daunte, who are over-represented among those arrested and killed.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, four percent of arrests result in arrests nationwide, supporting ideas to separate the two.
Over the past five years, a New York Times investigation has found that police have killed more than 400 drivers who did not wield guns or knives, or who were being prosecuted for a violent crime, a rate of more than ‘one per week.
Activists are also urging comprehensive mental health intervention services, the deconstruction of police unions and, ultimately, police funding.