Kim Potter trial live updates: jury weighs manslaughter charges on Daunte Wright set
The trial of Kimberly Potter, a former police officer charged with manslaughter after appearing to confuse her weapon with her Taser and shot dead Daunte Wright, began last week with jury selection and continued for three days of testimony .
Ms Potter, 49, was arrested in April, three days after shooting Mr Wright, 20, during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis. Mr. Wright had freed himself from another officer who was attempting to handcuff him, and as Mr. Wright returned to the driver’s seat of his car, Mrs. Potter issued a warning, suggesting that she was using her Taser, and fired one hit, killing Mr. Wright.
The shooting took place on a Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in the midst of the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was ultimately 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, stones and other objects at a line of 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.
What happened during the shooting?
Ms Potter, who resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department shortly after the shooting, had trained another officer, Anthony Luckey, on April 11 when they arrested Mr Wright.
Prosecutors said Constable Luckey told Mr Wright he was arrested because the registration number for the Buick he was driving had expired, as an obsolete sticker on the car’s license plate indicates. car, and because of a hanging air freshener. of his rear-view mirror, which is a traffic violation.
Officers recorded Mr Wright’s name in their computer system and discovered that a judge had issued a warrant for his arrest after missing a court date on two misdemeanor charges. The charges, of carrying a pistol without a license and absconding from the police, stem from a meeting with Minneapolis police officers in June 2020.
Ms Potter and Constable Luckey returned to Mr Wright’s car and asked him to exit, as seen in body camera footage. When officers told Mr. Wright that there was a warrant pending and Constable Luckey began to handcuff him, Mr. Wright disengaged himself from the officer’s grip and returned to the driver’s seat.
Body camera footage showed Constable Luckey attempting to get Mr. Wright out of the car while Mrs. Potter drew a gun and pointed it at Mr. Wright. She shouted: “I’ll Tase you!” and then “Taser! Taser! Taser! Before shooting Mr. Wright in the chest.
After Mrs. Potter fired the gun, the video shows that she swore and said, “I just shot him.” Officer Luckey and a sergeant who had arrived at the scene looked stunned. After the gunshot, Mr. Wright’s car pulled into the street and came to a stop when it collided with another car.
In the criminal complaint filed against Ms Potter, a special agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension described additional body camera footage that has not been made public. Officer Charles Phill wrote that Mrs Potter, moments after the shooting, used a curse, lamenting that she had “grabbed the wrong gun” and, a minute later, said: “I’m going to go to jail . “
Mr. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:18 p.m., 16 minutes after being shot.
What are the possible charges and penalties?
Prosecutors in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office have filed two felony charges against Ms. Potter: first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.
In order to convict Ms. Potter of first degree manslaughter, jurors would have to find that Ms. Potter caused Mr. Wright’s death by recklessly handling her weapon with “such force and violence” that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that someone would be killed or suffered serious bodily harm.
To convict her on the lesser charge of second degree manslaughter, jurors would have to find that Mrs. Potter negligently caused Mr. Wright’s death, created “unreasonable risk” and knowingly took the risk of kill someone or cause serious bodily harm.
Neither charge suggests that she intended to kill Mr. Wright.
The standard sentence for a conviction for first degree manslaughter is around seven years, although the maximum sentence is 15 years. For second-degree manslaughter, the standard sentence is four years in prison and the maximum sentence is 10 years.
If Ms Potter is found guilty, the exact sentence will rest with a judge, although prosecutors have said they plan to seek a harsher sentence than the standard sentence. They also said state law would require Ms Potter to serve at least three years in prison if she is convicted of either charge.
When Ms Potter was first arrested, she was only charged with second degree manslaughter. But after Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, took over the case, prosecutors in his office added the most serious manslaughter charge.
Who are the lawyers and the judge?
Ms. Potter is represented by 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 state law enforcement officers.
The lead prosecutor is Matthew Frank, a deputy attorney general who was also the lead prosecutor in Mr. Chauvin’s trial. Erin Eldridge, another assistant attorney general, is also on the prosecution team. Ms Eldridge gave the opening statements for the State and also led Ms Potter’s cross-examination when she spoke.
The judge in charge of the case is Regina M. Chu, who was appointed in 2002 when Jesse Ventura was governor. She worked in the Minnesota attorney general’s office for several years in the 1980s, then entered private practice, before being appointed a judge.
Who was Daunte Wright?
Friends remembered Mr. Wright as an upbeat 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 killed.
“He always said he couldn’t wait to make his son proud,” Mr. Wright’s mother Katie Wright said at her 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.”
In the days and weeks following Mr Wright’s death, it emerged that he had several criminal charges pending and had been charged with being involved in two violent encounters.
Just over a month after Mr Wright’s death, a mother sued her estate, claiming Mr Wright shot her son in the head in Minneapolis in May 2019, leaving him disabled. The mother’s lawsuit says her son had been childhood friends with Mr Wright but they fell out and her son ‘beat up’ Mr Wright in May 2019, possibly motivating Mr Wright to get revenge.
The trial offers no direct evidence linking Mr. Wright to the shooting, and Minneapolis police have not made any arrests or commented on the trial allegations.
An attorney for Mr Wright’s estate asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, and Ms Wright said the claims were hurtful.
“Running around with allegations like this is bad enough, whether they are true or false,” she said in an interview with The Star Tribune.
In addition to the pending firearm possession charge that led to the warrant, Mr Wright also faced charges of theft from a woman at gunpoint in December 2019.
Many who knew Mr. Wright said he was a man who made mistakes but made his life better.
A friend, Emajay Driver, said Mr. Wright “loved making people laugh.” In his first year of high school in Minneapolis, Mr. Wright was elected class clown. “There was never a dull moment,” Mr. Driver said.
During the eulogy at Mr. Wright’s funeral, Reverend Al Sharpton called Mr. Wright the “Prince of the Brooklyn Center” and said police had not known how many lives Mr. Wright had brightened.
What do we know about Kimberly Potter?
Ms Potter was an officer in the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years before resigning after the shooting.
She served as a field training officer and was training a less experienced colleague, Constable Luckey, when she shot Mr. Wright down. She had also been president of the police union in recent years, prosecutors said.
Her husband also served as a police officer for 28 years in Fridley, Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from the Brooklyn Center. Before retiring, her husband was an instructor in the department, training officers in things like the use of Tasers and how and when to use force, according to a city bulletin.
How often do officers confuse a firearm with a Taser?
While this is not common, there have been several instances where police officers have mistakenly fired their firearms while intending to use their Tasers.
In 2018, a rookie Kansas police officer mistakenly shot and killed a man who was fighting with a colleague. In 2019, a Pennsylvania policeman shouted “Taser! Before shooting an unarmed man in the chest. And in one of the most high-profile cases, a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer said he intended to shoot his Taser when he shot dead Oscar Grant III, who was black. , as Mr. Grant lay face down on a train platform on New Years Day in 2009.
In April, The New York Times reported that out of 15 cases of so-called confusion of arms over the past two decades, a third of the officers involved have been charged, and in three cases – only two of them in which people were killed – the officers were found guilty.
Will wright contributed reports.