Kim Potter, the former suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright after mistaking her pistol for her Taser, was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday. The sentencing was criticized by Wright’s family as being too light, accusing the court of favoring the white cop over the black victim.
In December, Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, on April 11. According to state legislation, she was only punished on the more serious crime.
After the sentencing, Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, claimed Potter “slaughtered my son,” adding, “Today the legal system murdered him all over again.” After Potter sobbed during her pre-sentencing statement, she accused the court of being swayed by “white lady tears.”
A weeping Wright said she could never forgive Potter and that she would refer to her only as “the defendant” because Potter only referred to her son as “the driver” during the trial.
“She never mentioned his name once.” And I’ll never be able to forgive you for it. And I’ll never forgive you for what you’ve taken from us,” added Wright, who also goes by the name Bryant on occasion.
“I will continue to battle in your name, Daunte Demetrius Wright, until driving while black is no longer a death sentence,” she stated.
“Katie, I understand a mother’s love,” Potter said to his mother after apologizing to Wright’s family. I’m sorry for breaking your heart… my heart is crushed and saddened for you all.”
“One of the worst instances I’ve encountered in my 20 years on the bench,” said the judge, who issued a sentence below state recommendations. Judge Regina Chu stated that she got “hundreds” of letters in support of Potter. “On the one side, a young guy was slain, and on the other, a respected 26-year veteran police officer made a sad blunder by reaching for her weapon rather than her Taser.”
Potter was “in the line of duty and performing her job in attempting to properly arrest Daunte Wright,” according to Chu, and she was also attempting to protect another officer who may have been dragged and gravely wounded if Wright drove away.
Potter will serve two-thirds of her sentence in jail, or 16 months, with the remainder on parole, according to the court. She has been given credit for the 58 days she has spent in the state’s women’s jail in Shakopee since her conviction.
Later, Wright’s mother joined a small group of demonstrators who chanted and shouted outside a downtown building where they believed the judge resided.
Officers in Brooklyn Center pulled Wright stopped for expired license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, and he was slain. Civil rights activists claim that rules prohibiting the hanging of goods from rearview mirrors have been utilized as a pretext to halt Black drivers.
The incident, which occurred while Derek Chauvin was on trial in Minneapolis for murder in the death of George Floyd, provoked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center police station, which included tear gas and fights between protestors and police.
In the same courtroom, Potter and Chauvin were found guilty.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Wright family, said the family was stunned by the sentence, questioning why a white officer was given special consideration in the killing of a young Black man when a Black officer, Mohamed Noor, was given a longer sentence for the 2017 killing of a white woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
“What we see now is a black-and-white judicial system.”
The court, however, stated that the case was not the same as past high-profile police deaths.
“This isn’t an officer who was convicted of murder for pinning someone down with his knee for 9 1/2 minutes while gasping for oxygen. “This is not a cop found guilty of manslaughter for drawing his weapon and shooting his colleague and murdering an unarmed lady who approached his squad,” Chu said of Chauvin and Noor. “This is a police officer who made a catastrophic error.”
The state recommendations on first-degree manslaughter for someone with no criminal history, such as Potter, vary from slightly more than six years to roughly eight and a half years in jail, with a presumption sentence of just over seven years.
Prosecutors claimed that aggravating factors justified a sentence higher than the guideline range, claiming that Potter misused her power as an officer and that her conduct put others in more danger than usual. However, Prosecutor Matt Frank stated on Friday that the presumed sentence was appropriate.
Before his sentence, Frank remarked, “His life mattered, and that life was taken.” “His name is Daunte Wright,” says the narrator. We must mention his name. He wasn’t simply a cabbie. He was a live individual. “A life,” she says.
Defense counsel Paul Engh argued that Wright was the aggressor and requested a sentence that was less than the recommendations, including merely probation. He said that other police on the scene testified that the situation was hazardous because Wright was attempting to flee and that Potter had the right to defend other cops.
The case was brought by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who said he accepted the punishment and urged others to do the same.
In a statement, Ellison said that people should remember Daunte Wright and that “no number of years in jail could ever capture the wonder of this young man’s life.”
The penalty, he noted, did not negate “the reality of the jury’s verdict.”
Wright’s death, Engh told the judge, was “beyond terrible for everyone concerned.” “This was an inadvertent crime,” he continued. It happened by chance. It was a blunder.”
Engh stated that if Potter is given probation, she will visit with Wright’s family and speak with police officers about Taser mix-ups, as prosecutors have proposed.
Engh also brought out a package containing “thousands” of letters and cards of support for Potter, according to him.
Engh stated, “People took the time to write her.” “For a defendant, this is unheard of.” No one in this room, I daresay, has ever seen anything like this.”
Officers discovered Potter had an outstanding warrant for a weapons possession allegation and attempted to arrest him when he pulled away, according to evidence presented during his trial. Potter said she was about to use her Taser on Wright many times on video, but she had her revolver in her hand and fired one shot into his chest.
Wright’s father and siblings spoke to the court about their grief.
Wright’s son’s mother, Chyna Whitaker, stated on Friday that he will never be able to play baseball with his son or see him go to school.
“My son shouldn’t have to wear his father’s’rest in peace’ shirt,” Whitaker stated.