Kim Potter Now Charged with First-Degree Manslaughter
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Prosecutors Add More Serious Charge Against Ex-Cop Kim Potter in Shooting Death of Daunte Wright

The former Brooklyn Center, Minn. police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, 20, now faces an additional and more serious charge: first-degree manslaughter. The upgraded charge means that Kim Potter, if convicted, faces the possibility of up to five more years in prison.

kim potter upgraded charging document

The charges Potter faces stem from the shooting death of Wright during a traffic stop in April. During the stop, Potter drew her service weapon and fired. Wright, who was attempting to flee from custody, took off in a white sedan, crashed nearby, and subsequently died.

Potter, 48, had warned she was going to use a Taser on Wright but instead fired a bullet. Potter yelled “holy shit! I just shot him” as Wright sped away.

Kim Potter

“During her 26 years as a police officer, Defendant received a substantial amount of training, including training related to use of force and, specifically, to the use of Tasers and firearms. Defendant completed annual recertification training courses on each of these weapons. These courses included training on how to draw, aim, and use each weapon correctly. The training material for these courses also included notices alerting Defendant to the possibility and risks of drawing a handgun instead of a Taser,” charging documents say. “In the six months before this incident, Defendant completed two Taser-specific training courses. For example, on March 2, 2021, Defendant attended a four-hour training course pertaining to the Taser. This course involved a classroom component, which provided detailed and substantive information concerning the function, proper use, and safety concerns associated with using Tasers; a practical component; and a written test. After this training, Defendant was certified for use of the Taser X7.”

“On Defendant’s certificate of completion, Defendant provided her signature, acknowledging that she had read and understood the information and warnings provided by the manufacturer regarding safe use of the Taser. One of those warnings states: ‘Confusing a handgun with a CEW [Taser] could result in death or serious injury. Learn the differences in the physical feel and holstering characteristics between your CEW and your handgun to help avoid confusion’ and instructs officers to ‘always follow your agency’s guidance and training.’ In other prior Taser trainings completed by Defendant, including another on November 5, 2020, Defendant likewise signed paperwork acknowledging that she received, read, and understood identical warnings,” documents added.

Minnesota’s first-degree manslaughter statute says as follows:

609.20 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.
Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both:
(1) intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation;
(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;
(3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the actor is coerced by threats made by someone other than the actor’s coconspirator and which cause the actor reasonably to believe that the act performed by the actor is the only means of preventing imminent death to the actor or another;
(4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V; or
(5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.377 (malicious punishment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.
As used in this section, a “person of ordinary self-control” does not include a person under the influence of intoxicants or a controlled substance.

Since-resigned Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as an “accidental discharge” of a gun. He said Potter appeared to have made a mistake when she drew her gun, rather than her Taser, in an altercation with Wright which lasted only a few seconds. Gannon believed Wright didn’t realize she pulled the wrong weapon until after the gunshot rang out.

Potter’s body camera footage shows her drawing her gun and pulling the trigger.

Potter is expected to be prosecuted by the same office that secured former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction in April 2021.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced in May that he will lead the prosecution and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank will “supervise the case” against Potter. Frank was one of several prosecutors who presented the state’s case in court that Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Ellison said that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman requested that the Attorney General’s office handle the case after the Washington County Attorney’s Office that brought manslaughter charges against Potter “returned the case to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office,” as the press release at the time put it.

Ellison said in a statement that Daunte Wright’s death “was a tragedy.”

“He should not have died on the day that he did. He should not have died the way that he did. His parents, brothers, sisters, and friends must now live the rest of their lives without him. His son, only two years old, will grow up without his father. I have privately expressed my condolences and sorrow to the family and expect to work with them closely throughout the proceedings,” he said.

Ellison said he “did not seek this prosecution and do not accept it lightly.”

On Thursday, Ellison’s office announced that charges have been upgraded in Potter’s case.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office said that it consulted with police use of force expert and determined that both the second-degree and first-degree manslaughter charges are “appropriate” in this case:

The complaint alleges that former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter committed first-degree manslaughter by recklessly handling a firearm when she fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11, 2021. The complaint continues to allege — as the original complaint did — that Kimberly Potter committed second-degree manslaughter by culpable negligence by using a firearm.

In taking over the prosecution of this case from the Washington County Attorney, Attorney General Ellison pledged to conduct a thorough review of the evidence and make an independent decision on the level of charges. After conducting that review — which included consulting with an expert in police use of force — Attorney General Ellison confirmed that the original second-degree manslaughter charge is appropriate, but also concluded that an upgraded charge of first-degree manslaughter is warranted.

Aaron Keller contributed to this report.

[Image of Daunte Wright via Attorney Ben Crump and GoFundMe; image of Kim Potter via the Hennepin County, Minn. Jail]

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Matt Naham is the editor-in-chief of Law&Crime.