On the eve of jury selection in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, the family of Daunte Wright gathered Monday to demand accountability.
"It's just been nerve-racking," said mother Katie Wright. "Anxiety, hurt, anger, stress ... every emotion you can think of, I've been feeling it."
At a news conference in a hotel less than a mile from the Hennepin County courthouse, families who lost loved ones to police violence stood in solidarity with the Wrights, including relatives of Emmett Till, Philando Castile, Hardel Sherrell and George Floyd, whose girlfriend Courteney Ross said this case is "so dear to my heart."
Ross said she remembers Daunte Wright fondly from when she served as dean of students at Edison High School, where he was a student who was a joy and always on the basketball court.
Potter fatally shot 20-year-old Wright on April 11, claiming she mistook her gun for a Taser. He was killed as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was underway. Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd.
Ross said the day Wright was killed, many of the families surrounding her Monday had gathered to celebrate the birthday of another man lost to police violence. Amity Dimock, whose autistic son, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, was fatally shot by Brooklyn Center police in 2019, told Ross there had been another death at the hands of police.
"By the time I got home, I found out that man, that young man was Daunte Wright," Ross said. "Mind you Daunte's murder took place during the international trial of my man George Floyd who was murdered by Derek Chauvin. The fact that Kim Potter [brandished] a weapon for a routine traffic stop when the entire world was looking at racist cops under a microscope proved to me that Kim Potter was so brash and brazen that she murdered a Black man with no thought."
Potter, a 26-year veteran of the department, is heard on body camera footage immediately after the shooting saying, "I'm going to prison."
Potter is charged with second-degree manslaughter — which requires a finding that she acted with "culpable negligence" in Wright's death — as well as first-degree manslaughter, defined as "recklessly" causing Wright's death.
Potter's attorney Paul Engh has said the video makes it abundantly clear that Potter made an innocent mistake. "An accident is not a crime," he said.
The families gathered on Monday dismissed that idea.
"In all my years working in education, I never mistook a sticker for a stapler," Ross said. "There's no excuse for her incompetency when it comes to people's lives."
Ross embraced Katie Wright in a long hug while sobbing and saying, "This is pain like no other."
Sherrell's mother, Del Shea Perry, said no amount of money will replace their children, but people need to be held accountable.
"We are expecting justice. We are not asking for it. We are demanding it," Perry said.
Minneapolis attorney Jeff Storms, who is representing the Wright family along with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Floyd's family, said the Potter trial will test Minnesota on its values and ethics. He noted that ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who is Black, was held accountable for killing a white woman when Noor said it was an accident.
"Now we're going to be faced with very similar circumstances. And the question is, are we prepared to hold a white officer accountable for killing a young Black man when she says it was an accident?" Storms said, adding that lawyers object to Potter saying it was an accident.
"It's going to tell a lot of us about where we stand as a state," he said.
Katie Wright said she remains hopeful for accountability — not justice. "Justice would be Daunte home and nobody else being murdered by police," she said. "Accountability is what we can hope and pray for come verdict day."