Kim Potter, a white Brooklyn Center police officer since 1995 and former president of their police union, was arrested Wednesday after shooting and killing Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop over the weekend. This comes one day after she and Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon resigned from the department amid community outrage and protest.
On Sunday, Wright was pulled over for driving with expired license plate tags and having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, a violation of Minnesota law. Potter and her partner, who she was training, decided to arrest Wright upon noticing that there was already a warrant out for his arrest. Bodycam footage caught the ensuing tragedy as it unfolded: Wright, who was unarmed, evaded the officers as they handcuffed him. Potter warned Wright that she was going to tase him, all the while holding her handgun. She shot Wright in the chest, exclaiming “Holy shit! I shot him!” Wright was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.
Potter was booked into the Hennepin County jail Wednesday afternoon. In Minnesota, a person convinced of second-degree manslaughter can face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
Although it’s rare for a police officer to face criminal charges for shooting someone on duty, for Wright’s family, the manslaughter charge feels like a slap on the wrist.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Wright family and several other families who have been traumatized by police violence, released the following statement, claiming Potter was too experienced to have mistakenly used a firearm instead of a taser:
“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Duante, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back. This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force. 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. Kim Potter executed Duante for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant. Duante’s life, like George Floyd’s life, like Eric Garner’s life, like Breonna Taylor’s, like David Smith’s meant something. But Kim Potter saw him as expendable. It’s past time for meaningful change in our country. We will keep fighting for justice for Duante, for his family, and for all marginalized minorities. And we will not stop until there is meaningful policing and justice reform and until we reach our goal of true equality.”
There is a GoFundMe for Wright’s memorial fund. Proceeds will help support his family.