The fallout surrounding the death of Daunte Wright has led to a swift shakeup atop law enforcement and city leadership in the Minneapolis suburb where the 20-year-old Black was shot and killed Sunday.
Kim Potter, the veteran Brooklyn Center police officer who fired the deadly bullet that struck Wright in his chest, resigned amid mounting pressure that she be fired. And Police Chief Tim Gannon also submitted his resignation, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot announced during a press conference Tuesday.
And according to reports from CBS News, charges could be filed against Potter as soon as Wednesday.
Law Enforcement Labor Services, Potter’s labor union, broke news of Potter’s resignation, according to the New York Times. The two police departures came one day after the City Council voted to terminate City Manager Curt Boganey effective immediately in an emergency meeting.
Boganey, who was hired in 2005, oversaw the city’s police and fire departments. Council members handed that authority over to the mayor’s office and appointed Reggie Edwards to be the acting city manager.
According to the Star-Tribune, one council member said they chose to fire Boganey because she feared becoming a target of protesters if she didn’t.
“He was doing a great job. I respect him dearly. I didn’t want repercussions at a personal level,” Kris Lawrence-Anderson said during Monday’s special meeting.
Potter, 48, tendered her resignation letter to Gannon, the mayor, and Edwards Tuesday morning, ending a 26-year career with the department.
“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,” she wrote in a two-sentence statement.
Elliot said he was unsure if Potter will be able to keep her pension, Yahoo News reported. The mayor announced that the city would appoint two senior commanders to lead the police department in Gannon’s wake. Commander Tony Gruenig, a 19-year veteran of the force, will take over as the active police chief.
“It’s very chaotic right now,” Gruenig said during Tuesday’s press conference at City Hall. “I was just informed less than a half hour ago about the whole change in status. There’s just a lot of chaos going on right now. We’re just trying to wrap our heads around the situation and try and create some calm.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced in a statement Monday that his office was passing the case to the Washington County Attorney to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. It’s part of a practice that five Twin Cities counties adopted last year in use-of-deadly force cases involving law enforcement.
It will be up to Washington County prosecutors to decide what, if any, charges should be filed against Potter. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told CBS 4 in Minnesota that he expects to make a charging decision today.
“I would like to start by offering my sincerest sympathy and prayers to the family of Daunte Wright during this heartbreaking time.
The five Urban County Attorneys adopted a new practice and procedure concerning the police use of deadly force cases one year ago, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest in handling such cases.
The County Attorney in the jurisdiction where the shooting occurs refers the case to one of the other County Attorneys, or the Attorney General, for all decisions including a charging decision or any potential prosecution. This policy has been followed in several cases in different counties in the past year.
Accordingly, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has sent to the Washington County Attorney the case concerning the recent tragic death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Further decisions on this case, upon completion of the investigation being under taken by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), will be made by the Washington County Attorney’s office.”
The fatal shooting happened just before 2 p.m. in the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue. Potter was working as a field training officer, coaching a new recruit, when she responded to the traffic stop involving Wright. Officers stopped the father of a 1-year-old son because he had expired license plates, according to police.
During the stop, officers learned Wright had an outstanding warrant for a misdemeanor offense and failing to appear for an April 2 court date on a weapons charge. It was unclear if Wright was aware of the warrant or court hearing; he was charged via summons, according to the Star Tribune.
As officers attempted to take Wright into custody, he jumped back into his car and Potter rushed in to assist. She threatened to shoot Wright with a stun gun then yelled “taser, taser, taser” as she unholstered her service weapon. Potter then fired a single bullet that struck Wright in the chest as he sped away. Immediately afterward, she shouted, “Oh s–t, I just shot him.” Wright drove a few blocks before colliding with another vehicle and dying at the scene of that crash.
“I lost my son. He’s never coming back. I can’t accept that,” Aubrey Wright, Daunte’s father, told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “A mistake? That doesn’t even sound right. This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”
Gannon released Potter’s bodycam footage during a press conference Monday afternoon and told reporters the officer appeared to have mistaken her handgun for her stun gun. The former chief refused to say that Potter deserved to be fired and said she had the right to “due process.”
Boganey backed the chief up when reporters pressed him to release Potter’s name. Her name was not known publicly at the time. She had been suspended and remained on paid administrative leave at the time, pending the outcome of an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. BCA revealed Potter’s identity late Monday evening.
“It’s my understanding at this point that it’s the BCA who’s doing the investigation,” he told reporters. “We have every intention to release that information as quickly as possible. And and I would just leave it at. There’s no reason or desire to withhold that information any longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Boganey balked when a community activist in the media throng called for him to release the name on the spot.
“I won’t do that at this moment, at this place,” he said.
“Why,” the activist asked.
“It would be inappropriate,” he replied.
“That’s not inappropriate. What was inappropriate was killing Daunte Wright under those circumstances,” the woman responded to end the exchange. “So you are working harder to protect a killer cop than a victim of police murder.”
Wright died about 10 miles northwest of the scene of Cup Foods grocery store in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes as he and three officers detained him during an arrest.
News of Potter and Gannon’s resignations spread as civil rights attorney Ben Crump staged a press conference outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, where Derek Chauvin is being tried for murder.
Chauvin’s defense attorney began laying out his case Tuesday, and Floyd’s family members participated in the press briefing during a lunchtime recess in the trial.
“Great,” Wright’s aunt Nyesha Wright said when asked to respond to news of Potter’s departure. “I hope that since she went ahead and she resigned, that they hold her at the highest levels of accountability. Because she was the law, right? Protect and serve. Put her in jail like they would do any one of us. They would put us under that jail cell. It wouldn’t be no accident; it’d be murder.”
Crump joined in the family’s chorus in calling for Potter to be charged with murder.
“If the city leadership of Brooklyn Center is saying that we need more effective leadership, to make sure that this is prevented in the future, then the family welcomes responsible leadership,” he said.
About 50 people gathered for Tuesday’s press conference outside the courthouse. Organizers said many of them were family members of other slain men and women who fell victim to police violence in Minnesota. Among them was a relative of Emmett Till.
Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, sobbed as she stood amongst the throng of supporters draped in a blanket. She said her son called her when officers stopped him and told her that he was pulled over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror. She told him to take them down.
When police explained to Daunte that his plates were expired, she told him they’d take care of it. Then Katie Wright said the officers ordered her son out of the car and he asked them why. She described hearing the ordeal unfold over the phone as the officers worked to detain him. The phone went dead during the struggle. Moments later, Duante Wright’s girlfriend, who was in the car with him, called Katie Wright on Facetime and told him the police had shot him.
“I never imagined this was what was going to happen. I just thought maybe he was being arrested,” she said. “She was crying and screaming and she said that they shot him. Then she pointed the phone toward the driver’s seat and my son was laying there unresponsive. That was the last time that I seen my son, that was the last time I heard from my son. And I have had no explanation since then.”
Crump said he found it “unbelievable” that another Minneapolis-area police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black man less than a year after the George Floyd killing, which sparked a global outcry for police reform. “Because if ever there was a time when nobody in America should be killed by the police, it was during this pinnacle trial of Derek Chauvin, which I believe is one of the most impactful, civil rights, police excessive use-of-force cases in the history of America,” the attorney said. “And we believed that police would be on their best behavior, that they would exercise the greatest standard of care. That they would concentrate on de-escalation in a way that they have never concentrated in America.”
Philonise Floyd, George’s younger brother, drew parallels between Wright’s shooting and the killing of Oscar Grant.
“He should still be here,” he said of Wright. “It’s a time for change and that time is now. Minneapolis, you can’t sweep this under the rug anymore. We are here and we will fight for justice.” Grant was 22 when transit officer Johannes Sebastian Mehserle shot him during a 2009 scuffle on a subway platform in Oakland, California. Like Potter, Mehserle mistook his service weapon for his stun gun. The BART officer was charged with second-degree murder but a jury acquitted of that charge. He was instead convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years behind bars. Mehserle was released on parole in June 2011 after serving only 11 months.
Wright’s aunt, Nyesha Wright, proclaimed her nephew’s name and demanded that Potter be held fully accountable.
“They murdered my nephew. She killed my nephew,” she said. “This was no broken home. This was no broken home. This was 23 years of love.”