The former Minnesota police officer who fatally shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man over the weekend has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, according to a local prosecutor.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police force, is being charged in the death of Daunte Wright. If convicted, Potter, 48, could face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
Potter resigned Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.
Earlier, Orput told WCCO-AM he had received information on the case from state investigators and hoped to have a charging decision Wednesday. While Wright’s shooting happened in Hennepin County, prosecutors referred the case to nearby Washington County — a practice county attorneys in the Minneapolis area adopted last year in handling police deadly force cases.
A third night of protests erupted Tuesday night in the Minneapolis suburb, in which more than 60 people were arrested.
About 90 minutes before a 10 p.m. curfew, state police announced over a loudspeaker the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters launching fireworks toward the station and throwing objects at police, who launched flashbangs and gas grenades, and then marched in a line to force back the crowd.
“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, warning that anyone not leaving would be arrested. The state police said the dispersal order came before the curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police. The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave the scene.
“Mistaking your Taser, which is lighter, colored differently and on another hip, with your handgun, which is black, heavy and on your other hip — and causing somebody’s death is second-degree manslaughter, or at least can be prosecuted as such,” Manhattan-based civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby told The New York Post.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mike Elliott asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to assign the investigation into Wright’s death to the state Attorney General’s Office. On Monday, Elliott said Curt Boganey had been fired as city manager and was being replaced by Reggie Edwards.
“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter wrote in a letter to Elliott, Gannon and Edwards.
Inbox: Here is the resignation letter of Kim Potter, the (now former officer) who shot and killed Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center: pic.twitter.com/qcw6CRkVC3
In a Monday news conference, Gannon described the incident as “an accidental discharge.” The shooting sparked protests and unrest in an area already on edge because of the trial of the first of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
The Hennepin County, Minnesota, medical examiner ruled Wright’s cause of death as homicide by gunshot wound to the chest, according to reporter Andy Mannix.
Hundreds of protesters faced off against police in Brooklyn Center after nightfall Monday, hours after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced by the governor. When the protesters wouldn’t disperse, police began firing gas canisters and flash-bang grenades, sending clouds wafting over the crowd and chasing some protesters away. A long line of police in riot gear, rhythmically pushing their clubs in front of them, began slowly forcing back the remaining crowds.
Forty people were arrested Monday night at the Brooklyn Center protest, Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said at a news conference early Tuesday. In Minneapolis, 13 arrests were made, including for burglaries and curfew violations, police said.
Law enforcement agencies had stepped up their presence across the Minneapolis area after Sunday night violence. The number of Minnesota National Guard troops was expected to more than double to more than 1,000 by Monday night.
Authorities earlier Monday released body camera footage that showed the officer shouting at Wright as police tried to arrest him.
Elliott called the shooting “deeply tragic” and said the officer should be fired. “We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is done and our communities are made whole,” he said.
Elliott later announced the City Council had voted to give his office “command authority” over the police department.
This “will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” he wrote on Twitter. He also said the city manager had been fired, and that the deputy city manager would take over his duties.
Effective immediately our city manager has been relieved of his duties, and the deputy city manager will be assuming his duties moving forward. I will continue to work my hardest to ensure good leadership at all levels of our city government.
The reason behind the firing was not immediately clear, but the city manager controls the police department, according to the city’s charter. Boganey, speaking earlier to reporters, declined to say whether he believed the officer should be fired and that she would get “due process” after the shooting.
Brooklyn Center is a suburb north of Minneapolis that has seen its demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, most residents are Black, Asian or Latino.
Elliott, the city’s first Black mayor, immigrated from Liberia as a child. On Monday night, he was joined by Keith Ellison, the state’s first Black attorney general, in addressing a group of protesters not far from the police department — telling the demonstrators to use their voices but remain safe.
“We are going to get to the bottom of this, we are going to make sure that there’s justice, that there’s officers held accountable,” Elliott can be heard telling protesters on video posted by a reporter for Minneapolis television station KARE.
Earlier this evening I had the opportunity to go talk to these peaceful protesters. I assured them we are working collaboratively with all involved agencies & will get to the bottom of this. Our city is calm now, thank you all who came out to peacefully protest then went home pic.twitter.com/N8RCbf52C7
Ellison reminded the crowd he is leading the prosecution of the first officer charged in Floyd’s death and promised Wright’s death will not be “swept under the rug.”
The body camera footage showed three officers around a stopped car, which authorities said was pulled over because it had expired registration tags. When another officer attempts to handcuff Wright, a second officer tells him he’s being arrested on a warrant. That’s when the struggle begins, followed by the shooting. Then the car travels several blocks before striking another vehicle.
Gannon said he believed the officer had intended to use her Taser but instead fired one bullet at Wright. From “what I viewed and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”
Court records show Wright was being sought after failing 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.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said her son called her as he was getting pulled over.
Wright was first pulled over for having expired tags, police chief says. ID check later showed he had a warrant out
During the call, she said she heard scuffling and then someone saying “Daunte, don’t run” before the call ended. When she called back, her son’s girlfriend answered and said he had been shot.
His brother, Dallas Bryant, told about 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday evening that Wright sounded scared during the phone call and questioned how the officer could mistake a gun for a Taser.
“You know the difference between plastic and metal. We all know it,” he said.
Demonstrators began to gather shortly after the shooting, with some jumping atop police cars. Wright’s death prompted protests in other U.S. cities, including in Portland, Oregon, where police said a demonstration turned into a riot Monday night, with some in the crowd throwing rocks and other projectiles at officers.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged in Floyd’s death, is continuing. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. Prosecutors say Floyd was pinned for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. The judge in that case refused Monday to sequester the jury after a defense attorney argued that the panel could be influenced by the prospect of what might happen as a result of their verdict.
Brooklyn Center police said in a statement that officers had stopped an individual shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. After determining the driver had an outstanding warrant, police tried to arrest the driver. The driver reentered the vehicle and drove away. An officer fired at the vehicle, striking the driver. Police said the vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.
A female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the crash.
Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, huddled with loved ones near the scene and pleaded for her son’s body to be removed from the street, the Star Tribune reported.
Carolyn Hanson lives near the crash scene and told the newspaper that she saw officers pull the man out of the car and perform CPR. Hanson said a passenger who got out was covered in blood.
Demonstrators gathered shortly after the shooting and crash, with some jumping on top of police cars and confronting officers. Marchers also descended upon the Brooklyn Center Police Department building where rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said at a news conference. The protesters had largely dispersed by 1:15 a.m. Monday, he said.
Harrington added that about 20 businesses had been broken into at the city’s Shingle Creek shopping center. He said law enforcement agencies were coordinating to tame the unrest, and the National Guard was activated.
Police said Brooklyn Center officers wear body-worn cameras, and they also believe dash cameras were activated during the incident.