.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ex-officer Kim Potter is found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

A former police officer from suburban Minneapolis could be headed to prison for many years. Kimberly Potter, who is white, was convicted of two counts of manslaughter for shooting and killing Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, earlier this year. She says she mistakenly grabbed her handgun instead of her Taser during a traffic stop. Reporter Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio spoke to me this morning about the case.

What happened during this traffic stop in April that led to Potter's conviction?

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Well, I'll take you back to last spring. It was a tense time here in the Minneapolis area. The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd was winding down. Just nine days before the jury in that trial delivered guilty verdicts, Anthony Luckey, a police officer in the suburb of Brooklyn Center, pulled over a Buick for several minor traffic violations. Riding with Luckey in the squad car that day was Kimberly Potter, his training officer who'd been on the force for 26 years. As Luckey tried to arrest Wright on a warrant for a firearms charge, Wright slipped back into his car. That's when Potter can be heard on body camera video shouting Taser, but instead she fires a single shot with her handgun.

MARTINEZ: And jurors saw that body camera video a lot over a week and a half. What else did they hear?

SEPIC: Well, defense attorneys argued that Potter made a mistake by grabbing her gun instead of her Taser. But at the same time, they asserted that the shooting was justified in the end because a third officer was in danger as he tried to grab Wright's gearshift. Prosecutors pointed out that Wright did not have a gun himself, and a use of force expert they hired said Wright never threatened to hurt anyone, only escape, and police could have arrested him later. Potter testified last week and, through tears, said that she didn't mean to kill Wright and that she was sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIMBERLY POTTER: I was very distraught. I just shot somebody. I've never done that.

MARTINEZ: What was the reaction from Daunte Wright's family and the community?

SEPIC: Well, A, here's what it sounded like outside the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis in the moments after the judge read the two guilty verdicts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering) Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

SEPIC: And Wright's mother, at a brief news conference, said the guilty verdicts came as a big relief.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATIE BRYANT: The moment that we heard guilty on manslaughter one, emotions - every single emotion that you could imagine just running through your body at that moment. I kind of let out a yelp.

MARTINEZ: Matt, did Potter or her attorney say anything about the verdict?

SEPIC: Potter stood expressionless as the judge read the verdicts. Her defense attorneys tried to convince Judge Regina Chu to allow Potter to remain free ahead of her sentencing hearing. But Judge Chu denied that request, and Potter was booked into the state women's prison, where she'll serve her sentence.

MARTINEZ: And how much prison time does she potentially face?

SEPIC: Well, under state guidelines, the presumptive sentence for first degree manslaughter for somebody with no prior criminal history is seven years, and typically two-thirds of that is served in prison, with the rest on supervised release. In Minnesota, defendants convicted on multiple counts for the same act are sentenced only on the most serious charge. But the prosecution is already on the record that it intends to argue for an upward departure from the state's sentencing guidelines, and that sentencing hearing, A, is set for February 18.

MARTINEZ: That's reporter Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio. Matt, thank you.

SEPIC: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.