Kim Potter: Police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright sentenced to two years as judge commends her ‘honourable service’

Mother of victim says Potter ‘failed Daunte’ and did not try to save his life

Richard Hall
Friday 18 February 2022 19:13
Kim Potter addressing the family of Daunte Wright during her sentencing
Leer en Español

Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year, has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Potter, who claimed she mistook her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot the 20-year-old black man, was convicted of first and second-degree manslaughter in a trial in December.

In passing sentence, which was significantly lower than the prosecution had asked for, Judge Regina Chu described it “one of the saddest cases I’ve had in 20 years on the bench”.

The judge, appearing to break into tears as she spoke, said Potter had “honourably served for 26 years as a police officer. She was a respected officer and consistently went over and above the call of duty.”

“On the one hand, a young man was killed and on the other a respected 26-year veteran police officer made a tragic error by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser,” she said.

For someone with no criminal history, such as Potter, state guidelines for manslaughter range from slightly more than six years to around eight-and-a-half years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being just over seven years.

Justifying the lesser sentence, Judge Chu said that Potter’s conduct “was significantly less serious than your typical manslaughter case”.

“Officer Potter never intended to use her firearm. She mistakenly drew her firearm at all times intending to use her Taser,” she said.

Under Minnesota law, Potter will serve two-thirds of her sentence in prison and the rest under supervised probation.

Mr Wright was killed in the Brooklyn Centre area of Minnesota after officers pulled him over for having expired licence tags and an air-freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. The shooting, which came in the midst of Derek Chauvin’s trial on murder charges in George Floyd’s killing, sparked several days of demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Centre police station, marked by tear gas and clashes between protesters and police.

In her sentencing, Judge Chu specifically referred to the Chauvin case and outlined why Potter’s was different.

“This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine-and-a-half minutes as he gasped for air. This is not a cop found guilty of manslaughter for intentionally drawing his firearm and shooting across his partner and killing an unarmed woman who approached his squad,” Judge Chu said. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake.”

Katie Wright gives victim impact statement during sentencing of Kim Potter

Evidence at Potter’s trial showed officers learned Mr Wright had an outstanding warrant for a weapons possession charge and they tried to arrest him when he pulled away. Video showed Potter shouted several times that she was going to use her Taser on Mr Wright, but she had her gun in her hand and fired one shot into his chest.

Speaking after the sentence was delivered, Katie Wright, his mother, said Potter “murdered my son”, adding: “Today the justice system murdered him all over again.”

She had earlier given a tearful statement in which she asked the court to “hold the defendant to the highest accountability”.

“She took a grandson, brother, uncle, cousin, [and] friend. She took a son from his father, a son from his mother, but most of all she took a father from his son,” said Ms Wright.

Ms Wright admonished Potter for referring to Daunte as "the driver" throughout the trial, rather than using his name, saying it dehumanised him.

"She never once said his name. And for that I’ll never be able to forgive you. And I’ll never be able to forgive you for what you’ve stolen from us," she said.

“She failed Daunte, our family and community. She did not render aid to Daunte.”

Potter’s defence attorney, Paul Engh, told Judge Chu that Mr Wright’s death was “beyond tragic for everybody involved”. But, he added: “This was an unintentional crime. It was an accident. It was a mistake.”

Mr Engh held up a box displaying what he said were among “thousands” of letters and cards of support for Potter.

Attorney Ben Crump reacts to Kim Potter sentencing

“People took the time to write her,” Mr Engh said. “This is unheard of for a defendant. I dare say no one in this room has ever seen anything like this.”

He urged the judge to sentence Potter to probation, saying sentencing guidelines are often not followed because they are too high for many defendants, including first-time offenders.

But the prosecution instead argued for the maximum sentence, given the loss of life and Potter’s culpable negligence.

“His life mattered, and that life was taken,” prosecutor Matt Frank said on Friday. “His name is Daunte Wright. We have to say his name. He was not just a driver. He was a living human being. A life.”

— Additional reporting from agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in