Kim Potter, Who Shot and Killed Daunte Wright, Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison

The sentence is just a fraction of what Daunte Wright’s family and state prosecutors had called for.
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In this screen grab from video, former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter becomes emotional as she testifies in court, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who says she accidentally grabbed her gun instead of her taser and shot and killed Daunte Wright, was sentenced to two years in prison, just a fraction of what prosecutors and Wright’s family had asked for.

Potter, who resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was convicted of first and second-degree manslaughter on Dec. 23 for shooting the Black 20-year-old during a traffic stop. On Friday, Hennepin County Court Judge Regina Chu handed down a sentence of 16 months in prison, with eight months under probation pending good behavior. 

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In Chu’s decision, she called out the difference between Potter’s actions and those in other high-profile cases involving police use of deadly force, such as the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the shooting death of 40-year-old Justine Ruszcyk Damonf in 2017.

“This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine and a half minutes as he gasped for air. This is not a cop found guilty of manslaughter for intentionally drawing his firearm and shooting across his partner and killing an unarmed woman who approached his squad,” Chu said. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake. She drew her firearm, thinking it was a taser, and ended up killing a young man.”

Wright’s family had asked for the maximum sentence of 15 years, and state prosecutors originally asked for Potter to be sentenced to seven years and two months in prison. Later, prosecutors conceded, suggesting Potter serve at least one year in prison and 10 months on probation. 

“I’ll never be able to forgive you,” Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, said in court. “April 11th was the worst day of my life. A police officer who’s supposed to serve and protect someone took so much away from us. She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through his heart and shattered mine.”

“Kim Potter was trained, and was trained to prevent this type of thing from ever happening. She was a police officer longer than my son was alive,” Aubrey Wright, Daunte’s father, said. “Her sentence is incomparable to the life sentence we have been give because of her negligence.”

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Defense attorneys, on the other hand, asked that Potter just get probation, arguing that she would be particularly vulnerable in prison.

During the sentencing, a tearful Potter turned to Wright’s family in the courtroom and apologized.

“I understand a mother’s love, and I’m sorry that I broke your heart,” she told Katie Wright. “My heart is broken for all of you.”

On April 11, 2021, officers including Potter pulled Wright over for expired registration tags. When they discovered Wright had a warrant out for his arrest, they called for backup and had him step out of the car before trying to handcuff the young man. But Wright managed to slip away from them and get back into his car.

As officers approached the driver’s seat, they continued to try to handcuff Wright as he sat there. That’s when Potter says she mistakenly pulled out her service weapon, instead of her taser, and shot Wright once in the chest. In bodycam footage of the encounter, Potter can be heard screaming “taser,” signaling she was going to use the less-lethal weapon. She then appears to realize her error after the gun goes off.

“Holy shit, I just shot him!” Potter screams in bodycam footage as Wright’s car careens away from where he was shot. “I grabbed the wrong fucking gun. I shot him.”

Wright was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting by police and medical first responders.

The tragic shooting took place as the state murder trial against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, continued just a few miles away. Like Floyd’s murder, Wright’s death was the focus of days of protest in the Twin Cities. The ongoing federal trial in St. Paul against the other officers involved in Floyd’s murder was put on pause to give defense attorney Earl Gray, who is representing both former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane and Potter, a chance to attend Friday’s sentencing.

In her sentencing Friday, Chu asked that those who hoped Potter would face harsher consequences try to empathize with the convicted former cop.

“I recognize there will be those who disagree with the sentence,” Chu said. “That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright’s life. His life mattered.”

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