Officer arrested, will face second-degree manslaughter charge in killing of Daunte Wright

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly A. Potter was arrested late Wednesday morning at the offices of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the agency said in a statement.

Potter, who resigned from the police department on Tuesday, was booked into Hennepin County jail shortly after noon on a charge of probable cause second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death on Sunday of Daunte Wright, jail records show. The Washington County Attorney’s office was expected to file charges later in the day.

Potter is being represented by attorney Earl Gray, who was not immediately available for comment.

Attorney Ben Crump, who said he has been retained by Wright’s family, issued a statement Wednesday with co-counsel Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci in response to the charges.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” the statement said. “This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force,” the statement read. “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.”

A second-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine or both.

Minneapolis defense attorney Barry Edwards said statutory maximum sentences don’t mean much, as judges instead follow guidelines from the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission. In the case of someone with no prior felonies facing a second-degree manslaughter conviction, the presumptive and more likely sentence would be four years, he said. And even then, a judge may consider probation instead of prison.

“If it were my client, I would argue for probation … and expect a good chance of winning,” Edwards said.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman referred the case to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput under a practice adopted last year among metro area county attorney’s offices for deadly police shootings. It calls for the county attorney in the jurisdiction where the shooting took place to refer the case to one of the other counties, or the state Attorney General’s Office, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The BCA investigated the shooting.

Potter, 48, joined the Brooklyn Center police force in 1995 at age 22. She was placed on standard administrative leave following the shooting.

Potter was training in a new officer on Sunday at about 2 p.m. when she and two officers stopped a car near N. 63rd and Orchard avenues in Brooklyn Center. Former Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned Tuesday, told media that officers stopped Wright’s car because it had an expired tag, and when they checked his name found he had a warrant.

Hennepin County District Court records show a warrant was issued April 2 for Wright after he failed to make his first court appearance on a case filed in March of carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor, and fleeing police, a misdemeanor.

In bodycam footage released by the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Wright is seen getting out of his car during the stop and standing near the open driver’s door as one of the officers pulls out handcuffs. A few moments later, Wright starts to struggle with the officers and gets back into his car. Potter shouts “Taser!” three times before firing a single bullet, then says “Holy shit. I just shot him.”

With Wright in the driver’s seat, the car pulls away. The car crashed a short distance away when it hit another vehicle. Wright died at the scene. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest and labeled his death a homicide.

Potter’s arrest marks at least the third time that a U.S. law enforcement officer faced or faces criminal charges for killing someone in what they claim or what appears to be a mix-up between a gun and a Taser.

A 73-year-old volunteer reserve deputy in Oklahoma was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the 2015 death of Eric Harris. Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a jury trial and sentenced to two years in prison for the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant III. A third such deadly mix-up that resulted in the 2002 death of Everardo Torres did not lead to criminal charges against the officer.

Law enforcement on Tuesday erected concrete barricades and tall metal fencing around the perimeter of Potter’s multilevel home in Champlin. Two police cars guarded the driveway behind fortified fences marked with signs reading “Caution: Lasers in Use.” Her street was lined with paper “No Parking” signs and blocked to nonresidential traffic. Motorists entering the area were greeted by a buzzing cellphone alert from local police to “expect protest activity in your neighborhood over the next few days.”

At the home of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last spring, protesters defaced his property in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, scrawling “Murderer” in red paint on the driveway.