BROOKLYN CENTER, Minnesota – The Minnesota policeman who shot dead Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, after appearing to confuse his handgun with his Taser was arrested on Wednesday and charged with second degree manslaughter afterwards three nights of demonstrations. about the murder.
The arrest of officer Kimberly A. Potter, who is white, came a day after she resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, as did suburban Minneapolis Police Chief. Hundreds of people have clashed with police in the Brooklyn Center every night since Mr Wright’s death on Sunday, demanding that the former officer be charged, even as the area is agitated amid the trial of former Derek Chauvin. Minneapolis officer accused of murdering George Floyd last May.
Peter J. Orput, the senior Washington County prosecutor, said Ms Potter, 48, had been taken to jail and awaiting a first court appearance.
Under Minnesota laws, second degree manslaughter can apply in cases where someone has created “unreasonable risk” and negligently kills another person. The maximum penalty for a conviction is 10 years in prison.
The manslaughter charge suggests that prosecutors agree with a version of events presented by city officials that Ms Potter did not intend to kill Mr Wright but had mixed up his weapons. Mr Orput said state investigators determined Ms Potter had placed her Taser on her left side and her gun on her right so that she had to use her left hand to remove her Taser; investigators found, he said, that she used her right hand to draw her gun on Sunday.
A judge set Ms Potter’s bond at $ 100,000, or half that amount if she agrees to surrender her passport, give up her weapons or ammunition, and stay in Minnesota. Ms Potter posted bail and was released from the Hennepin County jail on Wednesday evening. Ms Potter’s attorney, Earl Gray, did not respond to a request for comment.
It was uncertain whether the manslaughter charge would quell the growing outrage over Mr. Wright’s death.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Wright family, suggested in a statement that the murder was intentional and warranted a more serious charge.
“While we appreciate the District Attorney’s appeal for justice for Daunte, no conviction can return the Wright family to their beloved one,” Mr. Crump said. “It wasn’t an accident. It was an intentional, deliberate and illegal use of force. “
Ms Potter, 48, worked for the police department for 26 years and was training a young police officer on Sunday afternoon when they pulled over Mr Wright’s car. Officials said he had an expired registration on his car and something stuck in his rearview mirror. When officers discovered that Mr. Wright had a warrant for his arrest and attempted to detain him, he turned and got back into his car.
In body camera footage released on Monday, Ms Potter warned she would use a stun gun on Mr Wright, then shouted “Taser!” three times before shooting once in his chest. Mrs. Potter could be heard swearing and saying, “I just shot him.” Tim Gannon, the police chief at the time, described the murder as an “accidental discharge”.
Steven Wright, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, said second-degree manslaughter is a charge for offenses that are not planned – an example in the law deals specifically with accidents of hunting, which is not uncommon in Minnesota.
“The key question is whether someone acted reasonably in the circumstances, whether they created this risk of harm,” Wright said. “The officer’s state of mind is at the heart of what we ask the jury to decide. In this case, we are really talking about: is accidental shooting forgivable or not? “
Richard Frase, a professor of criminal law at the University of Minnesota, said the second degree manslaughter law was drafted narrow enough that the case could prove difficult for prosecutors to prove. noting that she required them to show that Mrs. Potter had consciously taken a risk of “causing death or grievous bodily harm”.
“She thinks she’s firing a Taser,” he said of the former officer. “How can we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she consciously took the risk of causing at least serious bodily harm?”
Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with second degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death, but he also faces second and third degree murder charges and could be jailed for up to 40 years if convicted. of the most serious charge. The jury is expected to begin deliberating early next week.
For several nights, Mr. Wright’s death brought hundreds of people to the Brooklyn Center police station, a suburb of Minneapolis, where they were greeted by members of the Minnesota National Guard and soldiers from the Patrol D State who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at the crowd. Some protesters launched fireworks and threw stones and water bottles at the police. Officers arrested 79 people on Tuesday evening. Dozens of businesses in the region were burgled earlier in the week.
Mr Wright’s mother Katie Wright said her son called her after police arrested him on Sunday and told her he was arrested because of an air freshener hanging from his mirror. She said he was driving with his girlfriend at the time and that she could hear “the fear in his voice” when he called. Mr. Wright had a son, Daunte Jr., who is almost 2 years old.
Mr Orput said on Wednesday that the warrant that prompted officers to attempt to arrest Mr Wright was the result of a felony weapons case. A judge had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Wright earlier this month after he missed a court hearing on two misdemeanor charges that he carried an unlicensed pistol and fled from police in Minneapolis in last june.
Mr. Orput, who oversees prosecutions in neighboring Washington County, is continuing the case even though the shooting took place in Hennepin County; As part of recent reviews, prosecutors in the Twin Cities region are referring police murders to prosecutors in another county to avoid conflicts of interest.
The local government of Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people, has been in crisis since Mr. Wright’s death. City council gave Mayor Mike Elliott more authority in the wake of Mr Wright’s death and the city manager, who previously oversaw the police department, was fired. Mr Elliott on Tuesday appointed an acting police chief who has promised to work with the community, but admitted he has yet to formulate a plan on how to do so.
Mr Elliott wrote on Twitter on Wednesday after the charge was announced that Mr Wright “should be alive and at home with his family.”