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May 12, 2021

Former Minnesota cop charged in shooting of Black motorist

By Scott Bauer and Mike Householder
Associated Press

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A white former suburban Minneapolis police officer was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright in a shooting that ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police.

The charge against former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter was filed three days after Wright was killed during a traffic stop and as the nearby murder trial progresses for the ex-officer charged with killing George Floyd last May.

The former Brooklyn Center police chief has said that Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead. However, protesters and Wright’s family members say there’s no excuse for the shooting and that it shows how the justice system is tilted against Blacks, noting Wright was stopped for expired car registration and ended up dead.

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement announcing the charge against Potter. “(Potter’s) action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”

Intent isn’t a necessary component of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota. The charge — which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison — can be applied in circumstances where a person is suspected of causing a death by “culpable negligence” that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances to cause a death.

Potter, who was being held on $100,000 bail, was scheduled to make her initial court appearance Thursday afternoon. Her attorney did not respond to messages from The Associated Press.

Potter, 48, and Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned Tuesday,  a day after the City Council voted to fire the city manager, who controls the police force. Acting City Manager Reggie Edwards said Wednesday that because Potter resigned, she is entitled to “all accrual and benefits that is due.” Mayor Mike Elliott has said that the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she submitted her resignation.

Police say Wright was pulled over for expired tags on Sunday, but they sought to arrest him after discovering he had an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

Body camera video that Gannon released Monday shows Potter approaching Wright as he stands outside of his car as another officer is arresting him.

As Wright struggles with police, Potter shouts, “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single shot from a handgun in her right hand.

The criminal complaint noted that Potter holstered her handgun on the right side and her Taser on the left. To remove the Taser — which is yellow and has a black grip — Potter would have to use her left hand, the complaint said.

Wright family attorney Ben Crump said the family appreciates the criminal case, but he again disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.

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