The bereaved family members of Daunte Wright were present in the courtroom on Friday at the sentencing of Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who resigned after fatally shooting the 20-year-old father of one. Potter claims she killed Wright after reaching for what she believed was a Taser, but turned out to be a gun.
Ahead of her sentencing, Potter was allowed to offer a tearful apology to the Wright family and acknowledge the severity of her life-altering mistake. “I’m sorry I broke your heart,” said Potter before Judge Regina Chu handed over what some consider a slap on the wrist. Chu sentenced Potter to two years in prison. Should she exhibit good behavior, she’ll be eligible to spend the last eight months of the sentence on supervised release.
Also prior to sentencing, some of Wright’s loved ones were given the chance to read out statements in response to yet another situation involving law enforcement’s deadly incompetence. Wright’s mother passionately pleaded for the “highest accountability” as she described the searing pain of losing her child: “She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through his heart. And she shattered mine.”
As it turns out, our justice system still believes in the value of certain instances of empathy—as evidenced in the brief sentence that the judge delivered in a monologue that took many by surprise. While getting choked up, Chu told the court:
“Of all the jobs in public service, police officers have the most difficult one. They must make snap decisions under tense evolving and ever-changing circumstances. They risk their lives every single day in public service. Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically.”
She went on to add that Potter “never intended to hurt anyone” and that her “conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines.”
It’s hard to imagine that a veteran cop with two decades of experience would have a difficult time distinguishing between a Taser and a hand gun. It’s also hard to imagine that this cop could mistakenly take the life of a young Black man without paying dearly for those dire consequences.
Potter’s tearful apology was clearly more than enough to sway the judge’s decision, guaranteeing a lenient sentence that is hard to process for anyone who’s mentally invested in this real-life nightmare. Wright’s parents were heartbroken while leaving the courtroom and shared their heightened pain to the gathered crowd. Katie Wright, Daunte’s visibly shaken mother, expressed her shock and dismay in raw detail:
“So once again, we are standing here to say that we’re very disappointed in the outcome. Yes, we got a conviction, and we thank everybody for that. But again, this isn’t OK. This is the problem with our justice system today, and White women tears trumps—trumps—justice. And I thought my White woman tears would be good enough because they’re true and genuine.”
Aubrey Wright, Daunte’s father, took things further with his outright condemnation of the justice system that had just betrayed the memory of his son:
“I feel cheated, I feel hurt, I’m very upset that my son’s life was taken. It seemed that they were so tied up to her [Potter’s] feelings and they forgot my son was killed. I feel like we were tricked. I walk out of the court house feeling like people are laughing at us. This woman got a slap on the wrist!”
Potter’s sentence of two years is criminally low for the charges she faced, which usually carry a maximum of 15 years in prison. Judge Chu’s diminished the value of a young Black man’s life. In the meantime, the fight for justice continues.