Kim Potter seems in a Minnesota courtroom taking pictures
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – The former Brooklyn Center policewoman charged with second degree manslaughter in the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright made her first court appearance Thursday.
Kim Potter briefly appeared on Zoom for a largely litigation trial for the first time. She was sitting in her attorney’s office, Earl Gray, speaking only to confirm her presence at the hearing. Her next court date is May 17th.
Potter, 48, fatally shot Wright during a traffic obstruction on Sunday. In the indictment, prosecutors said Potter’s “culpable negligence” caused Wright’s death and “created an undue risk” when she shot him instead of using her taser.
Body-worn camera footage shows Potter aiming her gun at Wright as she shouts “Taser,” and the former city police chief described the incident as an “accidental release.”
At a press conference Thursday, Wright’s mom, Katie Wright, said she felt she would never do her son justice. “Justice would bring our son to our home,” she said.
Wright said she wanted accountability at its best.
“If that happens at all, we will still bury our son,” she added.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump compared the case against Potter to that of officer Mohamed Noor, a black former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot and killed a white woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, in 2017.
Noor was convicted of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison. He testified that he shot Damond as she approached his patrol car in an alley. He said he heard a bang from the driver’s side of the patrol car and thought Damond was a threat.
Crump also criticized the police’s explanation of the shootings and held up printed photos of a Glock pistol and a taser. Potter used excessive force to stop and Wright should not have been run over for a minor violation such as an expired vehicle registration during the COVID-19 pandemic, Crump said.
“So it is very difficult for this family to accept that this is an accident when you have a veteran who has been with the police for 26 years,” Crump said.
The Wright family would first go to the funeral home to see Daunte on Thursday, Crump said. Wright’s funeral will take place next Thursday and civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton will deliver the laudatory speech, he added.
Potter faces up to 10 years in prison and a $ 20,000 fine if found guilty. She was arrested Wednesday and released on a $ 100,000 loan.
What we know:Ex-officer Kim Potter, released on a $ 100,000 loan, is charged with second degree manslaughter over the death of Daunte Wright
“We will vigorously pursue this case and intend to prove that Officer Potter removed her responsibility for protecting the public when she used her firearm in place of her taser,” said Imran Ali, assistant crime director in Washington County. “Your act caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”
The Washington County Attorney’s Office is handling the case against Potter after Hennepin County’s attorney referred the case under an agreement between Minneapolis area attorneys to refer such cases to police use of lethal force.
Wright’s death has sparked protests in Minneapolis, an already tense area, as the trial of Derek Chauvin of George Floyd’s death is third week of witnesses.
Potter’s attorney, Gray, is also representing Thomas Lane, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder in Floyd’s death. Gray did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment on Thursday.
Potter, a 26-year-old Brooklyn Center Police Department veteran, resigned Tuesday when asked to fire her. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned and the city’s manager Curt Boganey was sacked.
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Wright’s family described their son as a loving father to their young son, Daunte Jr. He enjoyed exercising and spent the holidays with his family.
Wright said she spoke to Wright on the phone after he was run over. Wright told his mother that he was stopped on his rearview mirror for air fresheners. Police later said the first traffic obstruction was due to an expired registration.
Wright had a pending misdemeanor on a gun charge that prompted officers to try to arrest him.
Katie Wright said she told her son to give officers the phone so they could give them insurance information. She heard officers tell Wright to get out of the vehicle. Then she heard a scuffle and the phone hung up. When she called back, the woman in the car answered Wright by video call and showed Wright’s body in the driver’s seat after being shot.
Potter’s body-worn camera footage shows her standing behind Wright’s vehicle as two other officers approach the car. When the driver in the driver’s side begins arresting Wright, a black man, he stops. Potter, who is white, then grabs Wright’s arm and Wright appears to re-enter the driver’s seat when a fight ensues.
Potter pulls out her gun and points it at Wright as she yells “Taser”. After she shot Wright, Wright drives away and Potter yells, “(Expletive), I just shot him.”
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Wright’s shooting marks at least the 16th “gun confusion” case in the United States since 2001, and he is the fourth person to die in such incidents. This is based on data compiled by the FatalEncounters.org website and the University of Colorado Professor Paul Taylor, who is tracking such cases.
Wednesday night, a smaller crowd gathered outside Brooklyn Center Police Department for a fourth night demanding justice and accountability. There was another curfew and the police issued lifting orders around 9:00 p.m.
In a news conference early Thursday, Col. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol said about 24 have been arrested, ranging from curfew violations to possible civil unrest.
Contributor: Elinor Aspegren