In April last year, former Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter shot and killed black man Daunte Wright, after she mistakenly pulled out her gun while reaching for her Taser. Potter will serve a year in prison for the shooting.
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Potter, 48, was sentenced Friday to 24 months behind bars – substantially less than the seven years she could have faced – but she will only serve 16 months, thanks to a concession from Judge Regina Chu, who cried as she handed down the sentence and advised Wright’s family to feel sympathy for the police officer who shot Wright.
A total of 58 days served by Potter at Shakopee, the Minnesota women’s prison, will be added to her prison sentence as time served, meaning that she will serve 14 more months behind bars.
In a tearful plea, Wright’s family pleaded with Chu to sentence Wright to the maximum seven-year sentence. They called Potter, a mother of two and 26-year veteran, a murderer and said she didn’t show enough remorse.
Potter struggled through tears on Friday to express her apologies to them and how she prays for both of them every day.
‘To the family of Daunte Wright. I am so sorry that I brought the death of your son, father brother uncle, and the rest of your family. To your home Katie, I understand a mother’s love and I am sorry I broke your heart. My heart is broken for all of you,’ she said as she wept.
During the hearing, Judge Chu quoted Barack Obama and cautioned Wright’s family to “walk-in” the shoes of the convicted cop.
‘Of all the jobs in public service, police officers have the most difficult one. They must make snap decisions under tense evolving and ever-changing circumstances. They risk their lives every single day in public service. Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines,’ she explained.
Potter was not comparable with Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and then killed him, and Judge Chu said she was a ‘police officer who made a terrible mistake.’
‘It is undisputed she never intended to use her firearm. She mistakenly drew her firearm. This is a cop who made a tragic mistake. She drew her firearm thinking it was a Taser and ended up killing a young man,’ she added.
Judge Chu got emotional as she talked about officers risking their lives every single day in public service: "Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone," judge wipes away a tear. #KimPotter #DaunteWright @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/26NZpAfPN8
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 18, 2022
Potter’s attorney noted: ‘She has been a good daughter and sister. She is a loving mother to two wonderful boys, is a wonderful companion to her husband Jeff who completely adores her, rightly so. She loves her community and absolutely loved being a police officer. These are the relationships that mark a life.
‘May these units of her life be the ultimate calculation for litigation here.’
Wright’s mother, Katie, addressed Potter directly while telling her she would ‘never forgive’ her and requesting that Judge Chu not show her leniency.
‘She left our world with so much darkness and heartache.
‘The best way I can explain is that I feel a sinking feeling every day that a mother gets when she realizes her kid is missing in a grocery store and you can’t see him, feel him, know if he’s safe. Daunte was only 20. He had so much of his life ahead of him.
‘She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through the heart and she shattered mine. She took his future.
‘I hope the defendant is listening as I speak loud and clear today. And yes, I will call her the defendant.
‘I will not give her the respect of calling her by her name. She referred to Daunte over and over again as “the driver”. As if killing him wasn’t enough to dehumanize him, she never once said his name.
‘For that, I will never be able to forgive you. I will never be able to forgive you for what you have stolen from us.
‘I hope you’re listening and don’t mistake any of my words. We can’t afford the defendant to make any more mistakes,’ she said in tears.
Aubrey Wright, Wright’s father, spoke in court as well.
He stated: ‘Everything we do ends in tears. Happy times turn to sadness.
‘I ask that Kim Potter be held accountable and the maximum sentence be applied, which is incomparable to the life sentence we have.
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‘My son Daunte’s life was taken away way too soon and he is never coming back. It has affected my whole family,’ he said as he cried.
Daunte’s brother Damik reportedly said: ‘We know the charge was manslaughter but we believe what happened to Daunte was murder.’
Matthew Frank, the Assistant Attorney General of Minnesota, spoke first and suggested the community still needed more healing even though Potter had shown remorse.
As a result, he suggested Potter consult Taser manufacturers on how the weapon can be misconstrued as a firearm, as well as speak with Wright’s family.