Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly A. Potter was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright, joining just a handful of officers who have faced charges after shooting someone they said they intended to shock with a Taser.
Potter, a 26-year veteran of the department who resigned Tuesday, was arrested and booked into the Hennepin County jail shortly after noon. Bodycam footage from the shooting Sunday shows her shouting "Taser!" three times before killing Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, with a single shot from her Glock 9-millimeter handgun. Police officials blamed the death on human error.
Protests over Wright's killing have focused on how Potter, who is white, carried out a sequence of events that led to the death of a Black motorist who had been stopped for a minor traffic violation. Wright cooperated with Potter and another police officer at first, but a criminal complaint filed Wednesday showed how the encounter turned violent after one of the officers told Wright he was being arrested on a warrant.
Potter fired her gun 12 seconds after Wright pulled himself free from the officers.
Potter was released from jail Wednesday evening after posting $100,000 bond. Her attorney, Earl Gray, was unavailable for comment.
Attorney Ben Crump, who said he has been retained by Wright's family, issued a statement with co-counsel Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci in response to the charges.
"While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back," the statement said. "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."
According to the complaint from the Washington County Attorney's Office: Potter was training Brooklyn Center officer Anthony Luckey when they pulled over a white Buick at N. 63rd and Orchard avenues in Brooklyn Center at 1:53 p.m. Sunday. Luckey identified the driver as Wright, and while doing a records check discovered a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge.
Luckey and Potter approached the car and asked Wright to step out. He did, and placed his hands behind his back as instructed. Luckey told Wright that he was being arrested because of the warrant.
Wright then pulled away from Luckey to get back into the driver's seat, with Luckey holding on. Six seconds later Potter said she would hit Wright with a Taser, but "presented her department issued Glock 9mm handgun in her right hand and pointed it at the victim."
Potter said "Taser, Taser, Taser," a standard warning required by department protocol. She fired one second later.
Wright said, "Ah, he shot me," and the car sped off. It crashed into another vehicle a short distance away. Wright was later pronounced dead at the scene.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) examined Potter's duty belt and saw her handgun holstered on the right side and her Taser on the left, according to the complaint. Both had their handles facing to the rear. The Taser was yellow with a black grip and holstered in a "straight-draw" position, meaning Potter would use her left hand to pull it from its holster.
That configuration is common at police departments where officers carry both a Taser and a handgun, but it wasn't always that way. In Rochester, Minn., one of the first departments to deploy Tasers, officers initially carried the weapon in a fanny pack or the cargo pocket of their pants. Then an officer shot and injured a man in 2002 in what was blamed on a gun-Taser mix-up, and the department instituted an array of changes, said Capt. John Sherwin, who heads the department's training division.
Sherwin said the maker of Tasers, now Axon Enterprise Inc., used the Rochester event as a case study. In later versions of the Taser, the grip and trigger felt different from a handgun. The safety switches also differ.
"In a normal situation without stress or adrenaline, there is no way that you would be confused," Sherwin said. "But other factors can creep in."
Potter, 48, joined the Brooklyn Center police force in 1995 at age 22. Her case is at least the 16th in the United States in which a police officer shot someone when they intended to use a Taser. In nine of those cases there were no criminal charges.
The second-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.
Minneapolis defense attorney Barry Edwards said statutory maximum sentences don't mean much, as judges instead follow guidelines from the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission. In the case of someone with no prior felonies facing a second-degree manslaughter conviction, the likelier sentence would be four years, he said. Even then, a judge may consider probation instead of prison.
"If it were my client, I would argue for probation … and expect a good chance of winning," Edwards said.
The warrant that would have led to Wright's arrest was issued April 2, according to Hennepin County District Court records, after he failed to make his first court appearance the previous month on a charge of carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor, and fleeing police, a misdemeanor. The charges stem from a June 30 incident in which Minneapolis police responded to a report of a person with a gun and found Wright in the back seat of a vehicle.
"Once out of the vehicle, defendant took off running with officers in pursuit and managed to evade officers," the complaint said. It added that police were able to identify Wright "from prior interactions." A loaded handgun was found on the floor of the car where Wright had been sitting.
Wright also had a robbery case scheduled for trial in August. He was charged in December 2019 with first-degree aggravated robbery, accused of pointing a gun at a woman, choking her and attempting to steal $820 before he fled with an accomplice. He pleaded not guilty in March 2020 and posted bail, but his bail was revoked in July for possessing a firearm and failing to contact his probation officer. He was arrested and bonded out again in September.
Minor protests have taken place in Champlin at the house where Potter lived with her husband, a longtime Minnesota police officer who now works in security for a private company.
Champlin Police Chief Ty Schmidt said the family moved out of the house Monday. He said he plans to keep a round-the-clock police presence at the house, where authorities have erected a fence with concrete barriers on the bottom. On Wednesday, Champlin police cars were parked in the driveway and outside the home.
In a letter left at residents' homes dated April 13, the police department said it was "anticipating possible protest activity" that could include potential property damage in the area for the next several days.
One neighbor, who didn't want to be named, said a few people came by the home Tuesday night and yelled something at officers, but there was no violence and they left. The neighbor said he didn't learn that Potter lived there until he learned the news of the shooting.
"This year has been a tough year all around," he said. "I'm kind of worn out with everything."
Staff writers Nicole Norfleet and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329