Kimberly Potter, the white police officer charged with manslaughter this week in the death of Daunte Wright, was released from jail Wednesday evening after posting $100,000 bond.
Potter was arrested by state investigators late Wednesday morning. She spent 5 ½ hours in jail before bonding out shortly after 5:30 p.m. Potter is expected to make her first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. today at a downtown location in Hennepin County.
Potter shot and killed Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
According to a press statement from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, BCA agents took Potter into custody late Wednesday morning at the agency’s St. Paul, Minnesota, office. She was booked into the Hennepin County Jail and charged with second-degree manslaughter. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput confirmed the news to The New York Times early Wednesday afternoon, saying he planned to formally file the complaint later in the day. According to TV station KSTP 5, Orput met with Wright’s family and their attorneys Tuesday night and told them of the coming development.
Ben Crump, the civil rights lawyer that the family has retained, issued a statement on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” he said. “This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force. Driving while Black continues to result in a death sentence. A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a taser and a firearm.”
Orput issued a statement shortly after 3 p.m. that included more details about the deadly encounter, such as the fact that Potter’s stun gun was a different color than her service weapon. Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief and director of the Major Crime Unit, noted that he and Orput expressed their “deepest sympathies” when they met with Wright’s family. The prosecutors said they pledged to “spare no resources in seeking justice” for the slain father of a 1-year-old son.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Ali said. “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.”
The statement identified the placement of Potter’s service weapon versus her taser and the differences in color as has been noted by many in the media since the incident. “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-draw position, meaning Potter would have to use her left hand to pull the Taser out of its holster, according to the complaint.”
Hennepin County Medical Examiner Loren Jackson ruled Wright’s death a homicide Monday. The criminal complaint released late Wednesday alleges that Potter’s “culpable negligence […] created an unreasonable risk” that resulted in Wright’s death.
Potter had been a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, for 26 years and was training a new recruit Sunday afternoon when she shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. Authorities claim she accidentally shot the man when she mistook her service weapon for her stun gun.
The announcement culminates a tumultuous week of swift and sweeping changes in the department and a city under crisis. It comes after protesters in counties throughout the Twin Cities took to streets to protest Wright’s death for three consecutive nights.
Potter, 48, resigned from her job Tuesday, and former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon also stepped down. On Monday, Brooklyn Center City Council members terminated City Manager Curt Boganey, who’d been the chief of staff since 2005.
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.
That left it up to Orput to determine what, if any, charges Potter should face. BCA is also conducting an investigation into Wright’s killing.
According to Orput’s statement, Potter was a field training officer to Brooklyn Center officer Anthony Luckey. The two of them were traveling in the same squad car at 1:53 p.m. Sunday when they stopped Wright in the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue. Police said they initiated the traffic stop because he had expired license plates.
Luckey checked Wright’s ID and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge. Luckey and Potter approached Wright’s driver’s side just after 2:01 p.m. They asked Wright to get out and place his hands behind his back. When Wright exited the vehicle, Luckey told him he was being arrested for the warrant.
Wright pulled away about 18 seconds later as Luckey was handcuffing him. Potter rushed in to assist as Wright ripped out of the recruit’s control and jumped back into his vehicle. She threatened to zap Wright with a stun gun then drew her Glock 9mm with her right hand. Potter yelled “Taser, Taser, Taser” as she pointed her weapon at the man. She then opened fire and shot Wright one time in the chest.
He immediately said, “Ah, he shot me,” then sped away for a few blocks before crashing into another vehicle. Potter shrieked, “Oh s–t, I just shot him.” after she fired her weapon.
An ambulance responded to the scene of the crash where Wright died shortly thereafter.
Gannon released body cam video Monday which showed the fatal encounter. He explained that officers are trained to carry their handguns on their dominant-hand side and holster their taser guns on the side of their off hand. The former chief surmised that Potter mistook her Glock for her taser and shot Wright by mistake.
BCA investigators examined Potter’s duty belt and confirmed that her handgun was holstered on her right side and her Taser was on the left. Both weapons had grip handles that faced Potter’s rear, according to Orput’s statement. But the Taser was yellow with a black grip and was set in a straight-draw position. Prosecutors said that meant Potter would have had to use her left hand to draw the stun gun.
There were indications that Potter went into hiding prior to her arrest. News reports claimed that Potter fled her home after her address was shared on social media. Police in Champlin, the Minneapolis suburb where she resides, erected concrete barriers and fencing around the former officer’s house, according to Fox News. An officer stationed outside the home said Potter wasn’t there.
Wright was killed in a Minneapolis suburb about 10 miles northwest of George Floyd’s fatal encounter with 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’s arrest came one day after Crump was flanked by members of Wright and Floyd’s families during a press conference he staged outside the Hennepin County Courthouse where Chauvin is now being tried for second- and third-degree murder. During the gathering Tuesday, Wright’s family members demanded justice in connection with his death.
“It hurt me to my heart. Daunte was a beautiful child,” his grandmother, Angie Golson, said as she broke down and wept. “He might not have been an angel, but he was our angel. He belonged to us…and he’s going to be missed.”
Crump described the shooting as a execution and called for “meaningful policing and justice reform” in his statement Wednesday.
“Daunte’s life, like George Floyd’s life, like Eric Garner’s, like Breonna Taylor’s, like David Smith’s, meant something,” he said. “But Kim Potter saw him as expendable. It’s past time for meaningful change in our country.”
Wright’s shooting shares similarities with Oscar Grant’s death early the morning of New Year’s Day 2009. Grant was 22 when BART officer Johannes Sebastian Mehserle shot him during a scuffle on a subway platform in Oakland, California. Like Potter, Mehserle claimed he mistook his service weapon for his stun gun.
The transit officer was charged with second-degree murder, but a jury acquitted him of that charge and he was instead convicted of involuntary manslaughter. A judge sentenced Mehserle to two years behind bars and he was released on parole in June 2011 after serving only 11 months in jail.