Daunte Wright death: Police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter

Protests continue in Minneapolis after shooting of 20-year-old black man

The police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, as protests over the death of the African-American man continued in Minneapolis.

Kimberly Potter, 48, was arrested on Wednesday morning and brought to the Hennepin County jail in downtown Minneapolis where she is awaiting her first court appearance.

She was charged with second-degree manslaughter by the district attorney of Washington County – a neighbouring county in the greater Minneapolis area. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Ms Potter was one of three police officers who apprehended Mr Wright on Sunday afternoon because he was driving a vehicle with expired license plates.


Bodycam footage of the incident showed that Ms Potter drew a weapon after Mr Wright tried to re-enter his car as he was being handcuffed. After shouting the word “taser” several times, she shoots him, and then can be heard saying: “holy s***, I shot him”.

Following the shooting Mr Wright drove for a short time, struck another vehicle. He was found dead at the scene.

The Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned on Tuesday, cited "accidental discharge" as the cause of death, stating earlier this week that he believed Ms Potter had mistakenly used her gun instead of her taser.

Announcing the charges on Wednesday, Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief said that "certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer".

“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. Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr Wright and she must be held accountable,” he said.

The case is being handled by a neighbouring county following an agreement struck last year between the urban counties around Minneapolis, to avoid any accusations of conflicts of interest in sensitive cases involving police crime.

Ms Potter was being held in a jail adjacent to the complex where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.

On edge

Mr Chauvin, a former police officer, is accused of killing George Floyd last year when he knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes after detaining him. Though the two cases are unrelated, the timing of the Daunte Wright murder comes at a time when the city of Minneapolis is already on edge over the Floyd murder trial.

Ms Potter, who resigned on Tuesday, served in the police force for 26 years. She was training the two other police officers when the death of Mr Wright occurred in the Brooklyn Center area of the city on Sunday. She was previously president of the district’s main police union.

Protests were expected for a fourth consecutive night in the Brooklyn Center area last night. Tense scenes unfolded again on Tuesday evening after some protesters defied a 10pm curfew, prompting heavily-armed police and National Guard troops to disperse people using tear gas and flash-bang grenades.

Meanwhile, defence attorneys for Mr Chauvin continued their arguments on Wednesday, the 13th day of the high-profile trial.

The defence called David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner, to the witness stand. The South African-native claimed that Mr Chauvin's knee did not injure Mr Floyd's neck, stating that "all of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee did not press on".

He said that the condition of the victim’s heart played a significant role in his death as well as drugs in his system.

“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia . . . during his restraint and subdual by police,” he said.

His testimony contradicted the testimony of several medical and toxicology experts last week who said that Mr Floyd’s underlying conditions did not cause his death, which was instead caused by asphyxiation.

Mr Fowler also suggested that carbon monoxide from the police car near Mr Floyd could have contributed to his death.

The defence could wrap up their arguments as early as today. It is not clear if Mr Chauvin himself will take to the stand.

Closing arguments in the high-profile trial are expected to begin next Monday the trial judge said earlier this week.

Earlier in the day, attorney for Mr Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, dismissed the defence team’s argument this week that Mr Chauvin’s use of restraint was justified, describing it as “a desperate attempt to distract us. We all saw George Floyd face down, handcuffed, posing no threat to these officers. What he was trying to do was breathe . . . trying to extend life”.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent