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Two years in prison for ex-US cop who shot dead Black man at traffic stop

Kimberly Potter shot dead Daunte Wright after mistaking her gun for her Taser



Members of the New Black Panthers stand with signs calling for a maximum sentence for former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter. — AP
Members of the New Black Panthers stand with signs calling for a maximum sentence for former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter. — AP

By AFP

Published: Sat 19 Feb 2022, 2:31 AM

A former US police officer who shot dead a young African-American man after mistaking her gun for her Taser was given two years in prison on Friday, a sentence the victim’s father denounced as a “slap on the wrist”.

Kimberly Potter, 49, was convicted in December of first- and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Daunte Wright in the chest during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, in April 2021.

Judge Regina Chu rejected the prosecution’s request that Potter be given seven years in prison and sentenced her to two years, of which the former officer will have to serve 16 months.

“This is one of the saddest cases I’ve had in my 20 years on the bench,” Chu said. “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.”

“I recognise there will be those who disagree with the sentence,” the judge said. “There is no question that Ms. Potter is extremely remorseful.

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“Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines,” Chu said, wiping away tears.

Chu compared the case to that of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who kneeled on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd until the 46-year-old Black man passed out and died. Chauvin is serving 22 years for murder.

“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,” the judge said.

Chu’s sentencing came after Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, other members of the Wright family, and Potter herself tearfully addressed the court.

“She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through the heart,” Katie Wright said. “She shattered mine.

“He had so much life ahead of him,” she added of her son, who was 20 years old when he died and the father of a baby boy. “You took his future.”

A sobbing Potter told the Wright family she was sorry.

“I understand a mother’s love and I am sorry I broke your heart,” she told Daunte Wright’s mother.

The shooting of Wright, whose father is Black and whose mother is white, came during Chauvin’s trial for Floyd’s murder.

Floyd’s death was filmed by a bystander and sparked months of protests in the United States against racial injustice and police brutality. Wright’s death triggered several nights of unrest in Brooklyn Center before Potter’s arrest calmed tensions.

Wright’s parents addressed reporters after the sentencing and expressed disappointment with the outcome.

“Kim Potter murdered my son,” Katie Wright said. “Today the justice system murdered him all over again.”

“I feel cheated. I feel hurt. I’m very upset,” said Arbury Wright, Daunte Wright’s father. “I walk out of this courthouse feeling like people are laughing at us because this lady got a slap on the wrist.”

Prosecutor Matthew Frank, who also prosecuted the Floyd murder case, had asked the judge to impose a sentence that was “an acknowledgment that police officers are subject to the law like everybody else”.

“Remorse alone is not enough,” Frank said.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who had requested the seven-year sentence, issued a statement saying he “accepts” the judgment.

“There is no cause for celebration: No one has won,” Ellison said. “We all have lost, none more than Daunte Wright and the people who love him.”

Potter and other officers had stopped Wright’s car for a minor traffic violation.

After realising that Wright was the subject of an arrest warrant, the police officers decided to apprehend him.

Wright, who was unarmed, resisted being handcuffed and restarted his car to try to flee. Potter then drew what she said she thought was her Taser.

On a body camera recording, Potter can be heard shouting “Taser” several times, before shooting and fatally wounding Wright.


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