Cop Who Shot Daunte Wright Arrested, To Be Charged With 2nd-Degree Manslaughter

Kim Potter, the for­mer Brooklyn Center, Minn., police offi­cer who shot Daunte Wright was arrest­ed Wednesday and will be charged with sec­ond-degree manslaugh­ter, accord­ing to Minnesota authorities.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced the arrest. The Washington County Attorney’s Office will announce charges lat­er this after­noon. Potter is cur­rent­ly being held at the Hennepin County Jail.
Potter shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, dur­ing a traf­fic stop Sunday while offi­cers were attempt­ing arrest after dis­cov­er­ing an out­stand­ing war­rant. In body cam­era footage, Wright can be seen pulling his hands free and duck­ing back into the car; Potter yells “I’ll tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” then fires her hand­gun. Wright died on the scene.
Police offi­cials have char­ac­ter­ized the inci­dent as an acci­dent, say­ing Potter mis­took her hand­gun for her Taser.
“While we appre­ci­ate that the dis­trict attor­ney is pur­su­ing jus­tice for Daunte, no con­vic­tion can give the Wright fam­i­ly their loved one back,” lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the Wright fam­i­ly said in a state­ment. “This was no acci­dent. This was an inten­tion­al, delib­er­ate, and unlaw­ful use of force.“Under Minnesota law, a per­son is guilty of sec­ond-degree manslaugh­ter if they cause the death of anoth­er through “cul­pa­ble neg­li­gence” and “[cre­ate] an unrea­son­able risk, and con­scious­ly [take] chances of caus­ing death or great bod­i­ly harm to anoth­er.” The charge car­ries a max­i­mum penal­ty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Second-degree manslaugh­ter among the charges faced by fired Minneapolis police offi­cer Derek Chauvin in his tri­al, which is near­ing its clos­ing arguments.
Potter will be rep­re­sent­ed by Earl Gray, a high-pro­file Minnesota defense attor­ney who has pre­vi­ous­ly defend­ed mul­ti­ple police offi­cers. Among his cur­rent clients is Thomas Lane, the for­mer Minneapolis police offi­cer who helped restrain George Floyd. Gray’s office did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for comment.
Potter, who resigned on Tuesday, had served with the Brooklyn Center police force for 26 years. She pre­vi­ous­ly head­ed the local police union and helped train new officers.
“I have loved every minute of being a police offi­cer and serv­ing this com­mu­ni­ty to the best of my abil­i­ty, but I believe it is in the best inter­est of the com­mu­ni­ty, the depart­ment, and my fel­low offi­cers if I resign imme­di­ate­ly,” she wrote in her res­ig­na­tion let­ter. The let­ter makes no ref­er­ence to Wright.
It is rare — but not unheard of — for a police offi­cer to con­fuse their Taser with their gun. Multiple such shoot­ings have occurred in the years since Tasers have become com­mon­ly car­ried by police. Handguns and Tasers dif­fer in a num­ber of ways; hand­guns are heav­ier and made of met­al, while lighter-weight plas­tic Tasers are often bright­ly col­ored to help set them apart. Most police depart­ments, includ­ing Brooklyn Center, require their offi­cers to car­ry their Tasers on their non-dom­i­nant side to help avoid confusion.

In most cas­es, offi­cers who say they mis­took their gun for their Taser have not faced crim­i­nal charges.
One high-pro­file excep­tion was in the 2009 case of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Black man who died after being shot in the back at the Fruitvale BART sta­tion in Oakland, Calif., by a BART police offi­cer who lat­er said he’d meant to use his Taser on him. That offi­cer, Johannes Mehserle, was con­vict­ed of invol­un­tary manslaugh­ter — the California equiv­a­lent to Minnesota’s sec­ond-degree manslaugh­ter charge — and ulti­mate­ly served 11 months in prison.
Though Brooklyn Center is locat­ed in Hennepin County, the case is being han­dled by neigh­bor­ing Washington County. The five coun­ties that com­prise the Twin Cities region agreed last year to refer cas­es involv­ing police use of dead­ly force to oth­er coun­ties in the region to avoid con­flicts of interest.
The District Attorney in Washington County, Pete Orput, was first elect­ed in 2010. In his 10 years as D.A., Orput has over­seen a num­ber of police shoot­ing cas­es but has often declined to bring charges.
In a 2012 case where offi­cers shot and killed 19-year-old Mark Henderson as he tried to escape from a motel hostage sit­u­a­tion, Orput told the Woodbury Times he was “sat­is­fied” that the offi­cers behaved appro­pri­ate­ly. A grand jury con­vened by the coun­ty pros­e­cu­tor’s office lat­er cleared the offi­cers of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing. Criminal jus­tice advo­cates have crit­i­cized the use of grand juries in police cas­es, accus­ing pros­e­cu­tors of using them to avoid indict­ing offi­cers. The city of Woodbury even­tu­al­ly set­tled with Henderson’s moth­er for near­ly $1.5 million.
In 2018, the broth­er of a sui­ci­dal 22-year-old named Keaton Larson called 911 for help. Larson was wield­ing a knife, and an offi­cer shot and killed him; Orput deemed that shoot­ing justified.
“This is just anoth­er one of those cas­es that have sad­ly become almost typ­i­cal,” Orput said in an inter­view with MPR News at the time. “A fam­i­ly mem­ber is hav­ing a men­tal health cri­sis… and ends up act­ing out, leav­ing cops no alter­na­tive but to take some­one’s life.”
The may­or of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, has called on Gov. Tim Walz to reas­sign the case to the state attor­ney gen­er­al’s office, as he did in 2020 with the offi­cers involved in George Floyd’s death.This sto­ry orig­i­nat­ed with NPR.