Ex-police officer Kim Potter was released from prison early Monday and will reside in Wisconsin, two years after fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in a Brooklyn Center neighborhood.
Potter's release at 4 a.m. ended her 16 months in prison as part of her two-year sentence. Potter is now serving the balance of her term on supervised release. Her sentence from Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu was significantly below state guidelines.
Potter, a 26-year police veteran, said she confused her gun for a Taser. The police killing of an unarmed 20-year-old Black man sparked protests and calls for reform around pretextual traffic stops, where minor traffic or equipment violations are used by police to pull over drivers they wish to investigate.
"Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of Ms. Potter, [Department of Corrections] staff and the security of the correctional facility, the DOC commissioner [Paul Schnell] directed that she be released at 4 a.m.," read a statement from corrections spokesman Andy Skoogman.
Skoogman said DOC analysts closely monitored intelligence information in the days leading up to Potter's release and found "elevated concern for Ms. Potter's safety, including threatening comments directed at her and the potential for violent protests outside the Shakopee correctional facility."
Based on the intelligence, Skoogman said, "we released Ms. Potter at a time we felt was safest for her and for everyone at the correctional facility."
Skoogman added that Potter left the prison without any protesters or Wright family members present.
Minnesota is part of the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS), along with all other states and three U.S. territories. In accordance with the compact, Minnesota sets the conditions of release while Wisconsin is responsible for ensuring compliance.
Conditions of Potter's supervised release include:
- Maintain contact with and keep supervised release agent informed of place of residence and activities.
- Submit to unannounced visits or searches and comply with drug or alcohol testing as directed.
- Do not possess guns, ammunition or other dangerous weapons, including replica weapons.
- Remain law abiding. Refrain from engaging in any assaultive, abusive, violent, harassing, stalking, or threatening behavior, or other behavior that poses a public risk.
- No contact with the Wright family or others deemed by the DOC "to be a victim."
- Cannot leave Wisconsin without permission.
"Her incarceration was just a moment in time," Wright's mother, Katie Wright, told the Star Tribune last week. "She cursed us with a forever life sentence."
Potter, 50, and her attorneys, Earl Gray and Paul Engh, have declined comment in the time leading up to her release.
In May 2022, Potter applied to the Minnesota Board of Pardons for an early release from prison, but the panel turned her down in December.
"I have things to offer the community that prison walls don't allow," Potter said in her handwritten application. "I am not able to work with domestic abuse victims who need my love, support and knowledge. I am not able to care for the poor and homeless by caring for their daily needs. … Please consider commuting my sentence and sending me into society to continue the work that God has created me for."
Jurors convicted Potter, who had no criminal history, of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Wright's family and supporters celebrated the verdicts but criticized Chu for the sentence.
"Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone," Chu said from the bench.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution in Potter's case, was seeking a seven-year sentence and had until May 2022 to appeal Chu's sentence. He declined, saying he accepted the decision.
Police stopped Wright for driving with expired plates. He initially complied with officers, according to the criminal complaint, but tried to flee when told he was under arrest for an outstanding warrant.
In body camera footage, Potter can be heard shouting "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before firing one shot. After being hit, Wright sped off in his vehicle and crashed into an oncoming SUV.
Staff writer Kim Hyatt contributed to this report.