Police officer in Wright shooting faces court on charges of second-degree manslaughter

Kimberly Potter (48) shot and killed man after he was pulled over for a traffic offence in Minneapolis

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “Stop Killing Black People” as she stands outside the Brooklyn Center police station while protesting the death of Daunte Wright . Photograph: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “Stop Killing Black People” as she stands outside the Brooklyn Center police station while protesting the death of Daunte Wright . Photograph: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty

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The police officer accused of killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright made her first court appearance by Zoom on Thursday, as she faces charges of second-degree manslaughter.

Kimberly Potter (48) shot and killed Mr Wright after he was pulled over by police officers for a traffic offence on Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. She was arrested on Wednesday morning and charged with second-degree manslaughter.  The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Ms Potter, who has been a police officer for 26 years, appeared virtually at the hearing which lasted less than five minutes. She spoke only to confirm that she was present. She was brought to the Hennepin county jail in downtown Minneapolis the previous day but released on bail of $100,000.  Her next court hearing will be on May 17th.

According to the criminal complaint filed against her, she caused “an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to Daunte Demitrius Wright.”

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.”

Vigorously

Police officials say that Ms Potter’s action was accidental, and that she mistakenly used her gun instead of her Taser.

But announcing the charges this week, Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, pledged to “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.”

Speaking ahead of yesterday’s court hearing, Mr Wright’s family called for Ms Potter to face the full weight of the law. Katie Wright, the victim’s mother, said: “There’s never going to be justice for us,” but added: “I do want accountability, one hundred per cent accountability.”

Naisha Wright, the aunt of the victim, criticised the charge of manslaughter that was brought against Ms Potter.  

“If it was her child, if someone killed her child, we wouldn’t even be having this press conference. Because whoever that would be would be in jail. Can we get that same thing? We want the same conviction that anyone else of our race, or even outside our race, would get. Not a pat on the back.”

Presenting a picture of a gun and a Taser, she questioned the explanation that Ms Potter had mistakenly user her Glock pistol instead of her Taser when she shot Mr Wright.

“My brother and my sister need this woman to be convicted,” she said.

Tensions

The killing of Mr Wright has increased tensions in Minneapolis where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd last year, is drawing to a close.

The defence team concluded their case after two days on Thursday. Both sides will present their closing arguments on Monday, and it will then fall to the jury to adjudicate on the defendant’s innocence. A verdict could be delivered next week.

Mr Chauvin is accused of killing the 46 year-old man in May last year after he knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. He is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He denies the charges against him.

The former police officer declined the opportunity to testify on the final day of defence arguments on Thursday.

The final witness to testify at the trial was Irish pulmonologist Dr Martin Tobin. Mr Tobin, who had testified last week, was called back by the prosecution to address arguments made the previous day from Dr David Fowler who suggested that other causes than asphyxiation were behind Mr Floyd’s death. Specifically, Mr Tobin described claims by the defence witness that carbon monoxide fumes from a police car may have contributed to Mr Floyd’s death as “simply wrong.” Mr Tobin testified last week that Mr Floyd died from a low-level of oxygen which caused damage to his brain while he was being restrained by the defendant.

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