Ex-police officer charged over fatal shooting of black man in Minnesota

15 April 2021, 11:44

Protests in Minnesota
Police Shooting Minnesota. Picture: PA

Kim Potter had been with the Brooklyn Centre force for 26 years up until the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

A white former police officer faces her first court appearance over the fatal shooting of a black motorist in a suburb of Minneapolis, igniting four straight days of bitter conflict between protesters and officers.

Kim Potter, 48, who quit her job on the Brooklyn Centre force two days after Daunte Wright’s death, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in what her chief said appeared to be a case of confusing her Taser weapon with her handgun.

Many protesters and Mr Wright’s family members have rejected this, saying that either they do not believe it or that the incident reflects bias in policing, with Mr Wright ending up dead after being stopped for an expired car registration.

Potter, a 26-year veteran, was training another officer at the time of the stop. She was arrested and later freed after posting a 100,000-dollar (£72,000) bond.

Mr Wright’s death came as the broader Minneapolis area in the state of Minnesota awaits the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the first of four officers charged over George Floyd’s death last year.

Police officers
Police officers clear an area of demonstrators during a protest over Sunday’s fatal shooting of Daunte Wright (AP)

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement announcing the charge against Potter.

“(Potter’s) action caused the unlawful killing of Mr Wright and she must be held accountable.”

Intent is not a necessary component of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota.

The charge – which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison – can be applied in circumstances where a person is suspected of causing a death by “culpable negligence”, which creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances to cause a death.

A demonstrator in the spotlight
Police shine lights on a demonstrator in the Minneapolis suburb (AP)

Potter and police chief Tim Gannon both resigned on Tuesday, a day after the city council voted to sack the city manager, who controls the police force.

Acting city manager Reggie Edwards said because Potter resigned, she is entitled to “all accrual and benefits that is due”.

Mayor Mike Elliott said the city had been moving towards sacking Potter when she submitted her resignation.

Police say Mr Wright was pulled over for expired tags on Sunday, but they sought to arrest him after discovering he had an outstanding warrant.

The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

Police Shooting-Minnesota
Kim Potter (Hennepin County Sheriff/AP)

Body camera video shows Potter approaching Mr Wright as he stands outside his car as another officer arrests him.

As Mr Wright struggles with police, Potter shouts: “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single shot from a handgun in her right hand.

The criminal complaint noted that Potter holstered her handgun on the right side and her Taser on the left.

To remove the Taser – which is yellow and has a black grip – Potter would have to use her left hand, the complaint said.

Protests in Minnesota
A demonstrator reacts during a stand-off with police (AP)

Mr Wright’s family attorney Ben Crump said the family appreciates the criminal case, but he disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.

“Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanour warrant,” he said.

Experts say cases of officers mistakenly firing their gun instead of a Taser are rare, usually less than once a year nationwide.

By Press Association

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