The jury found former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Daunte Wright, guilty of two counts of first and second degree manslaughter on Thursday.
The defendant argued that she did not intend to wield her gun at Wright but rather mean to reach for her Taser. She testified Friday that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody” and that she was “sorry it happened. Potter pleaded not guilty to the charges. She faces a maximum sentence of 15 years and a $30,000 fine for the first-degree-manslaughter conviction and a maximum sentence of ten years and a $20,000 fine for the second-degree-manslaughter conviction.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge said Monday that Potter made a “blunder of epic proportions” when she fired her weapon at Wright. Potter’s lawyer Earl Gray retorted during closing arguments that her action amounted to an accident and that it was not a criminal offense.
Minneapolis homicide law, specifically its second-degree-manslaughter statute, stipulates that the defendant must have displayed “culpable negligence” in consciously committing an unreasonable act with recklessness that created a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm to another individual. While the jury determined Thursday that Potter met this benchmark, the defense claimed that Potter consciously believed she was using a weapon designed to stun or immobilize rather than kill.
Wright’s death coincided with the wave of social justice protests that overwhelmed Minneapolis amid police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in George Floyd’s killing. In April, more than 60 rioters were arrested in clashes sparked by Wright’s death in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Potter shot Wright when he resisted arrest and attempted to get back into his vehicle. Wounded from the gunshots, Wright crashed his car shortly after driving away, according to police testimony.
After the verdict was announced, the Wright family’s legal team released a statement urging for police reform.
“From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training and protocols,” the statement read. “If we are ever going to restore the confidence of Black and marginalized Americans in law enforcement, we need to have accountability and a commitment to listening and to creating meaningful change.”