After national uproar, the white Minnesota officer who claimed to accidentally shoot 20-year-old Daunte Wright instead of tasing him has been arrested. Veteran Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter shot and killed Wright after pulling him over during a traffic stop on Sunday. Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, which ruled the manner of death as a homicide. Potter was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with second-degree manslaughter, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput announced, The New York Times reported.
Under Minnesota law second-degree manslaughter is described as a charge associated with authorities causing someone’s death by “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” If convicted of this charge, Potter could face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $20,000. However, guidelines for the charge also state that those with no prior criminal history could have a shorter sentence of up to four years.
The charges follow both Potter and Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon announcing their resignation from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Gannon resigned a day after a statement in which he said Potter’s actions before the shooting were consistent with the department’s training on Tasers and that he believed the shooting was an “accidental discharge.” According to Gannon, Potter was reaching for her Taser when she accidentally grabbed her gun instead, Daily Kos reported.
In the bodycam footage released Monday, Potter can be heard saying “Holy shit. I just shot him.” According to the Times, Katie Wright, Wright’s mother said that her son had called her when police pulled him over and said that he had been stopped because of an air freshener dangling from his rearview mirror. Katie added that she could hear the “fear in his voice.”
“Daunte asks, ‘For what?’ The police officer said, ‘I’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.’ He said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ He said, ‘We’ll explain all of that when you step out of the car,'” Katie said. According to Katie, after the call ended she called minutes later and was told by Wright’s girlfriend that he had been shot. “She pointed the phone toward the driver’s seat, and my son was laying there unresponsive,” Katie said. “That was the last time that I have seen my son. That was the last time I’ve heard from my son, and I have had no explanation since then.”
According to the Star Tribune, Potter’s arrest is considered at least the third time that a U.S. law enforcement officer faced or faces criminal charges for killing someone in what they claim was an accidental mix-up of using a gun instead of a Taser.
In an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America on Tuesday, Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, said he could not accept that Sunday’s shooting was accidental. “I can’t accept that—a mistake. That doesn’t even sound right,” he said.” He noted the officer’s length of service being 26 years with the force. Both Aubrey and Katie said they wanted to see the officer “held accountable.”
The incident was captured on camera and resulted in consecutive nights of protests. It occurred miles away from the trial of Derek Chauvin—the officer who brutally murdered George Floyd in 2020. Organizations including the NAACP demanded that accountability be placed and that the officer not be exempt from prosecution because of her status as a police official.
Hundreds gathered calling for justice for Wright including the Floyd family, which left the courthouse during Chauvin’s trial Tuesday “because they thought it was important that they give comfort to Daunte Wright’s mother” and family, attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference, according to CNN. “We will stand in support with you. … The world is traumatized, watching another African American man being slayed,” Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd said.”I woke up in the morning with this on my mind. I don’t want to see another victim.”
Following the announcement of charges Wednesday, the Wright’s family attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the Floyd family, issued a statement: “While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” Crump 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.”
Like Floyd’s family, Wright’s family is also looking for answers. According to the Times, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a state agency that investigated Floyd’s death in May is leading the investigation into Wright’s death. But this incident and the one that led to the death of Floyd is not the first incident to bring Minnesota police officials into question nationwide.
Prior to Floyd’s death in May 2020, an officer was acquitted after fatally shooting Black school cafeteria worker Philando Castile during a traffic stop in 2016, NBC News reported. That incident too gained national attention because of a livestream by Castile’s girlfriend and passenger who said he was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed. In another incident, two white Minneapolis police officers were involved in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old Black man, Jamar Clark, and never charged.
Police brutality and racial injustice must end. This incident was not an accident, it was murder. Officials must be held accountable for their actions and justice must be served.