Kim Potter, the former police officer who accidentally shot and killed a man in a Minneapolis suburb after mistaking her gun for her taser, has been sentenced to two counts of manslaughter on Tuesday, what the NYT described as a “rare” (but clearly increasingly common) guilty verdict for a cop who killed someone while on duty.
The decision is likely to send her to prison for years. The AP said there were no immediate reports of riots after the verdict (though expectations for unrest were low) although the shooting itself sparked protests in the area, and beyond.
The jury of 12 deliberated for more than 27 hours over four days to reach the unanimous guilty verdicts for Potter, who is also a 49-year-old white woman who testified that she had never fired her gun on the police force in Brooklyn Center, Minn., before the incident on April 11, 2020. She fired a single bullet into the chest of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who had been driving to a carwash when he was stopped by police. She will be sentenced at a hearing later. Wright tried to pull away from the officers who had stopped him, because he had an arrest warrant out for missing a court date for a gun charge.
In body cam footage made famous by the media in the days after the shooting, Potter can be heard yelling “Taser, taser, taser” before firing her gun instead and shooting Wright in the chest.
When she apparently realized that she had shot him, she collapsed to the ground sobbing about how she would likely be “going to jail”.
First-degree manslaughter can send people to jail for up to 15 years, but the typical sentence is between 6 and 8 years, according to the NYT.
Attorneys representing the family of Daunte Wright said “the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death”, and called the traffic stop that led to his death “unnecessary” and “overreaching”.
Read the full statement below:
“The family of Daunte Wright is relieved that the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death of their son, brother, father and friend. From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training and protocols. If we are ever going to restore the confidence of Black and marginalized Americans in law enforcement, we need to have accountability and a commitment to listening and to creating meaningful change. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that Kim Potter receives the strongest and most just sentence possible. It is also imperative that we focus on the conduct of Brooklyn Center and pinpoint its systemic failures that contributed to Daunte’s unlawful death.”
Prosecutors have said they will be seeking a sentence longer than the average. They argued during the trial that Potter acted negligently, and thus was guilty, though they didn’t try to contest that the shooting was accidental. The body cam footage was a key piece of evidence.