Kim Potter, the Minnesota police officer who mistakenly shot and killed a man after thinking she was using her taser, was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter by a jury.
The verdict was read at 1:30 p.m. central time. You can watch it live here:
Kim Potter is the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright on Sunday, April 11, 2021, after mistakenly thinking her gun was a Taser. She is the police union president and a veteran officer who served on a law enforcement honor guard. Potter resigned from the department, the city announced on April 13, two days after the fatal shooting.
According to CNN, the jury is comprised of seven men and seven women, including “seven White men, four White women, two Asian women, and one Black woman.”
Kim Potter was convicted of both first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges.
KETV reported that prosecutor Erin Eldridge argued Potter made a “blunder of epic proportions,” whereas her attorney labeled it an “honest mistake.”
Potter will be taken into custody and held without bail, according to the judge.
Her attorney told the judge she was “not a danger to the public whatsoever,” and feels enormous remorse. She is a devoted Catholic, and it’s Christmas season, he said. “There’s no point to incarcerate her at this point in time,” the lawyer said, asking that Potter not be incarcerated before sentencing. “She was never in trouble all her life” and is 49. “…She has deep roots in the community.” Her bail was currently $100,000.
The prosecutor asked that Potter be taken into custody. He said she is living out of state.
“I can not treat this case differently than any other case,” Judge Regina Chu said, overruling the defense, and standing by her decision to hold Potter without bail. She will be sentenced in late February 2022.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Officer Shouted ‘I’ll Tase You’ to Wright but Shot Him With Her Service Weapon Instead
The DA’s press release contains additional details on the death, citing the criminal complaint.
According to the criminal complaint, at 1:53 p.m. Sunday, Brooklyn Center Police Officer Anthony Luckey and his field training officer, Potter, pulled over a white Buick at 63rd and Orchard Avenues North in Brooklyn Center. Luckey checked Wright’s identification and determined he had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge, the complaint said.
At 2:01:31, Luckey and Potter approached the driver’s side of the car and asked Wright to get out and place his hands behind his back. Wright did so, and Luckey told him he was being arrested for his outstanding warrant, the complaint states.
“Both Wright and Officer Luckey were standing just outside of the driver’s side door, which was open, and Potter was standing behind and to the right of the other officer. At 2:01:49, Wright pulled away from the officers and got back into the driver’s seat of his car, with Officer Luckey trying to maintain physical control of Wright,” according to the criminal complaint.
It continues, “At 2:01: 55, Potter said she would tase Wright. She pulled her Glock 9mm handgun with her right hand and pointed it at Wright, saying again that she would tase him. At 2:02 , Potter said, ‘taser, Taser, Taser,’ and pulled the trigger on her handgun at 2:02:01, firing one round into the left side of the victim,” the complaint says.
Wright immediately said, “ah, he shot me,” and the car sped away for a short distance before crashing into another vehicle and stopping. An ambulance was called and Wright was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the complaint.
After firing her gun, Potter said, “S***, I just shot him!”
“A Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator examined Potter’s duty belt and saw that the handgun is holstered on the right side of the belt and her Taser is on the left side. The grips or handles of both the gun and Taser face Potter’s rear. The Taser is yellow with a black grip. Also, the Taser is set in a straight-down position, meaning Potter would have to use her left hand to pull the Taser out of its holster, according to the complaint,” the news release said.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Wright died of a gunshot wound and the death was a homicide, it says.
Body Cam Video Backs Up That Potter Thought She Was Using Her Taser
Graphic bodycam video released by the Brooklyn Center police chief in a news conference appears to back up his contention that the female officer who shot Wright mistakenly thought she was using her Taser.
Instead, she used her handgun and shot Wright at close range, killing him, the video reveals.
The bodycam footage starts at about 1:20:00 into the above video.
“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” the chief said in the news conference. “This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge.”
He added that “my heart goes out to Daunte’s family.” He called the shooting “heartbreaking and unfathomable” and promised “transparency and accountability.”
The bodycam video shows Wright’s car pulled over to the side of the road. Two male police officers approach it, one on either side. Wright is asked to step out of the vehicle and does.
A male officer starts handcuffing him from behind. Gannon said Wright was being arrested for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. At that time, the female officer approaches. She puts her hands on Wright’s arm to assist the male officer in taking him into custody.
Wright then breaks away from the officers and tries to get back into his car. A struggle ignites. “I’ll tase you! I’ll tase you!” she shouts to Wright in the video, weapon drawn. “Taser, Taser, Taser!”
But when she fires, it’s her firearm, not her Taser. “Holy s***, I just shot him,” she says. The bodycam video shared with the public ended there.
Potter was the Former Police Union President & an Honor Guard Member’
According to GovSalaries, Potter in 2019 had annual salary of $90,513.
“She’s just a very dedicated, passionate, good person. It’s completely devastating,” he said. In the original story the Star Tribune also quoted Peters as saying, “In a very tense moment, she made a mistake. It’s not her character”; however, that quote has been removed from their article.
According to an August 2020 report from the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, Potter was the department’s police union president; she had been a member of the “casket team” honor guard for the Law Enforcement Memorial Association. She is 48 years old, according to public records reviewed by Heavy.
A Facebook post from the union, the Brooklyn Center Police Officers Association, indicated that Potter became union president in 2019. “Let’s see if the new President is watching what the other page admins are posting 🙂 ~. She has a long affiliation with the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA). Maybe she’ll take a bow and post a few pics?” the post read. That Facebook page is now unavailable, as is the Brooklyn Center Police Department Facebook page.
The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, called for the officer to be fired. “My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties,” the mayor said in a press conference on April 12.
Although it has since been removed from their story, the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper originally reported that Potter and 10 other officers received a “chief’s unit certificate of commendation” in 2017 for a 2016 death investigation.
“The group of officers performed lifesaving techniques on a victim while gathering witness testimony, leading to the arrest of a suspect,” the commendation read, according to the newspaper.
An April 2017 article in the local newspaper Hometown Source reads, “Fricke, Toohey, Vesey, Olson, Potter, and Lorentz were joined by Officer Brandon Zabel to be recognized for their response to a September 2016 shooting, where they formed a perimeter, rendering first aid to a victim-turned-suspect and gathering enough data to eventually arrest and charge suspects with felony charges.”
An April 2015 article from Hometown Source indicates Potter was also honored among other officers with the Medal of Merit for her “bravery in responding to an August 2014 house fire, saving nine occupants inside.”
The recent police shooting led to a shakeup at city hall.
The mayor removed the city manager, who had said in a news conference that the officer would get due process, from his duties. “Effective immediately our city manager has been relieved of his duties, and the deputy city manager will be assuming his duties moving forward. I will continue to work my hardest to ensure good leadership at all levels of our city government,” he wrote on Twitter.
He also explained, “Moments ago the council passed a motion 3-2 to give command authority over our Police Department to my office. At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership. I appreciate the other councilmembers who voted to approve this motion.”
Gannon called Potter “a very senior officer” during the April 12 press conference. According to her LinkedIn page, which Heavy reviewed before it was removed, Potter has worked for Brooklyn Center as a police officer for 26 years and three months.
“She has the right to be heard. She has the right to give her statement. She has a right to tell what she felt, what she thought. Not what I thought. Not what I saw. But what she thought,” Gannon said. “She will not be returning to duty until this investigation has run its course and she, for all intents and purposes, I think we can look at the video and ascertain whether or not she’ll be returning.”
The chief said that officers are trained to shout “Taser” before deploying one.
“As you can hear, the officer while struggling with Mr. Wright shouts, ‘Taser, Taser’ several times. That is a part of the officer’s training prior to deploying a Taser, which is a less lethal device. That is done to make her partners aware, as well as the subject, that a Taser deployment will be imminent. During this encounter, however, the officer drew their handgun instead of their Taser,” Gannon explained.
Gannon revealed that the reason for the Daunte Wright traffic stop was an expired vehicle registration.
“The tags were expired. Upon arrival when the officer made contact, at that time when he walked up to the car he discovered there was a hanging item from the rearview mirror. So there was a contact that the officer went up there initially for, obtained his ID, or his name, he walked back to his car and at that time he ran his name and he found out that he had a warrant. That’s why they removed him from the car and they were making custodial arrest,” said Gannon.
That contradicted information from Wright’s mother, who told reporters that she believed he was stopped because of the air fresheners. Wright, 20, was the father of a young child. The chief said he did not believe Wright had any weapon in his vehicle.
Potter is the mother of two adult sons, according to the Star Tribune, which reported that her husband is a former Fridley, Minnesota, police officer. Her sons are ages 19 and 22 according to public records.
Potter’s husband is now a corporate investigator with a major company. His LinkedIn page says he is “Skilled in Investigations, Threat Management, Active Shooter Instruction, Field training (FTO), Weapons Handling, Law Enforcement, and Glock and M4 Armorer and Range Master.”
He worked for the Fridley Police Department for more than 26 years, according to LinkedIn. He also served as a task force officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration from 2008 to 2011 and was a detective with the Anoka Hennepin Narcotics and Violent crimes Task Force.
Potter Faced Manslaughter Charges
In a news release, the County Attorney, Pete Orput, announced that Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter. She was taken into custody by agents of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She also faced first-degree manslaughter charge.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” said Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief and director for the Major Crime Unit.
“With that responsibility comes a great deal of discretion and accountability. We will 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. County Attorney Peter Orput and I met with the family, expressed our deepest sympathies and assured them we would spare no resources in seeking justice for Mr. Wright.”
The case was being prosecuted by the Washington County Attorney’s office because of the conflict of interest in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, authorities said. According to Minnesota state law, second-degree manslaughter carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted. This mugshot was released for Potter.
“The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has identified the officer who discharged her firearm during an officer involved shooting incident that occurred on Sunday, April 11, in Brooklyn Center,” BCA wrote in a news release.
“Officer Kim Potter has been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. She is on standard administrative leave. Further personnel data are not public from the BCA under Minnesota law during an active investigation,” according to the release. Her full name is Kimberly Potter.
Potter Declared It Was in the Best Interest of the Community to Resign
In her resignation letter released by the city, Potter said, “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.”
After Wright’s death on the afternoon of April 11, 2021, protests and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center, and his distraught family gathered at the scene. Tensions are running high in the community located just 15 minutes from the spot where George Floyd died.
Potter shot Wright in a traffic stop; police say they did not find a weapon in Wright’s car. They said in a press release that he tried to re-enter his vehicle before the officer shot him, and the chief played traumatic video from a police body-worn camera that shows the officer shouting that she had a Taser before fatally shooting Wright. She actually had a firearm; Potter shot Wright at close range. Authorities formally named Wright, 20, as the man shot, and his family had earlier named him at the scene to local media outlets in Minnesota.
Wright’s family claimed that he was pulled over due to an air freshener hanging in his car, but police now say that he was actually pulled over for having expired registration tags.