Daunte Wright: Who was the 20-year-old Black man shot dead by Kim Potter in Minneapolis suburb?

·4-min read
Daunte Wright: Who was the 20-year-old Black man shot dead by Kim Potter in Minneapolis suburb?

The death of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April 2021 sparked protests against the police even as tensions were already running high due to the murder trial of a police officer over George Floyd’s death a year earlier.

Mr Floyd’s death in May 2020 prompted waves of protests across the US and had a profound impact on the Black Lives Matter movement globally – but nowhere has it affected communities more than in Minneapolis.

On 11 April 2021, outcry again returned to the city after Wright was shot dead by officer Kim Potter in Brooklyn Center, a northwestern suburb with a population of about 30,000.

Ms Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter on 23 December.

The mostly white jury was presented with starkly different views of Ms Potter, with the defence claiming that she made an innocent mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and the prosecution portraying her as a veteran cop who had gone through extensive training that warned of such a mix-up.

Daunte Wright with his two-year-old son (Family Handout)
Daunte Wright with his two-year-old son (Family Handout)

In closing arguments on 20 December, prosecutors told the jury that being a police officer does not mean having “a licence to kill” and that Wright’s death was the result of a “colossal screw-up”.

The case is about the “reckless handling of her firearm” and “culpable negligence” by the defendant, said Prosecutor Erin Eldridge, arguing that she put “four people directly in harm’s way” when she opened fire on the 20-year-old.

She added that something being “an accident” does not mean it isn’t a crime, with intent to kill Mr Wright not part of the charges.

Follow live updates on the Kim Potter trial

In the defence’s closing arguments, attorney Earl Gray argued that Mr Wright “caused the whole incident” by failing to comply with the officers when they pulled him over.

He argued that Ms Potter also had the right to use deadly force because she believed her fellow officer was in danger.

Ms Potter was the last witness called to the stand for the defence where she broke down in tears and apologised for Mr Wright’s death.

“I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I didn’t want to hurt anybody!”

On the day of the shooting, Ms Potter and another officer she was training stopped Wright’s car at a traffic signal because it had an expired registration tag, and an air freshener was hanging from the rearview mirror.

Once he was pulled over, Ms Potter determined that Wright had an outstanding warrant against him on a gross misdemeanour charge, and tried to arrest him along with two other officers.

As Wright attempted to drive away, Ms Potter can be heard on body camera video saying “taser, taser taser” before firing, followed by: “I grabbed the wrong [expletive] gun.”

The video also showed her holding her handgun for about five seconds before firing.

Kim Potter in her booking photo (Hennepin County Sheriff)
Kim Potter in her booking photo (Hennepin County Sheriff)

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said he had called her as he was being pulled over and that she heard scuffling before the call ended. When she called back, she said, Wright’s girlfriend told her that he had been shot by police.

The 20-year-old is survived by his son, who is aged less than two, Daunte Wright Jr. Some social media photographs and videos showed his brother Damik Wright holding Daunte Jr up in the air near the scene of the shooting.

During a YouTube livestream of the protest, Wright’s sister could be heard saying of her brother: “He was so goofy. He just makes everybody happy.

“They took my brother away from me. … I’m so hurt, they really just took him. … I still can’t believe it. I’m still feeling like I’m going to go home and see him. It really hurts.”

Ms Potter resigned two days after the shooting in “the best interest of the community”.

Seven months later, Ms Potter listened silently in the Hennepin County Court as a jury returned guilty verdicts on the charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter on Thursday, 23 December, after more than 27 hours of deliberations.

The more serious charge of first-degree manslaughter required the prosecution to prove that Ms Potter caused Wright’s death while committing the misdemeanour crime of reckless handling of a firearm. It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

The second-degree manslaughter charge required the prosecution to prove that she caused Wright’s death through culpable negligence, meaning she created an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm when she used her firearm. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine.

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