MINNEAPOLIS – A suburban Minneapolis police officer who said he confused his handgun for his Taser was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Deontay Wright on Thursday, bringing the young black man’s parents to tears And outside the courthouse there was a joyous celebration by supporters, who chanted “guilty.” Guilty, guilty!”
A mostly white jury deliberated for nearly 27 hours over four days before former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter was found guilty of first-degree and second-degree murder. Potter, 49, faces nearly seven years in prison under state sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer term.
Judge Regina Chu ordered Potter into custody and held without bail pending sentencing on February 18. Potter was freed on a $100,000 bond posted last April, which was charged three days after Wright was killed and one day after he left. Police Force.
As she was taken away in handcuffs, a member of the Potters’ family in the courtroom shouted “Love you, Kim!” Potter’s lawyers left the courthouse without comment and did not immediately respond to phone messages or emails.
It was the second high-profile conviction of a police officer won this year by a team led by Attorney General Keith Ellison, which also included some of the same lawyers who fought Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd in the same courtroom just eight months earlier. helped to convict.
Wright was killed while the trial was not taking place very far, and this sparked a wave of angry protests outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, where protesters demanding “Justice for Deontay” rioted for several nights. clashed with officers in gear.
Dozens of people erupted in applause and tears of joy as they read the verdict outside the Court House on Thursday. A New Orleans-style jazz band played “When the Saints Go Marching In”. The two men jumped up and down holding each other’s shoulders, and then the others jumped up and down and chanted “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” started chanting.
They chanted “Say his name! Dante Wright!” Some had yellow signs that said “guilty” in capital letters.
Potter, who testified that she “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” looked down on her with no apparent reaction when the judgments were read. As Chu thanked the jury, Potter made the sign of the cross.
Potter’s lawyers argued that she should be allowed to remain free until the sentencing, saying she was not going to commit another crime or go anywhere.
“It’s the Christmas holiday season,” argued Potter attorney Paul Ang. “He is a devoted Catholic, no less, and there is no point in imprisoning him at this time.”
Chu dismissed their arguments, however, saying that she “cannot treat this case as separate from any other case.”
Although Potter showed no apparent emotion in court as the verdicts were read, she was later photographed smiling in a mug shot taken as she was processed at a women’s prison near Minneapolis.
After Potter is escorted from the courtroom, prosecutor Erin Aldridge exchanges a teary-eyed Katie Bryant, Wright’s mother and frequent presence at trial, and a long hug with Wright’s father. Alison even exchanged hugs with the parents.
Later outside the courthouse, Ellison said the verdict brought a measure of accountability to Potter but fell short of justice.
“Justice must bring Deonte back to life and make the Wright family whole again,” Ellison said. “Justice is beyond the reach we have for Daunte in this life. But accountability is an important step, an important necessary step on the road to justice for all of us.”
Ellison said he has sympathy for Potter, who has been convicted of a serious crime from a “respected member of the community.”
Wright’s mother hugged Alison, saying the verdict “aroused every single emotion you can imagine.”
“We’ve got accountability today and that’s what we’ve been asking for from the beginning,” said Katie Bryant, who credited supporters for keeping the pressure up.
“We love you, we appreciate you, and honestly, we couldn’t have done this without you,” she said.
The time-stamp on the verdict showed jurors agreed on a second count on Tuesday, before asking the judge that afternoon what to do if they were having difficulty agreeing. The guilty verdict on the more serious first-degree count came at 11:40 a.m. Thursday.
Potter, who is white, shot and killed 20-year-old Wright during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, as he and other officers were trying to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for a weapon charge. . The shooting took place at a time of high tension in the area, with Chauvin being tried in nearby Minneapolis for Floyd’s death.
Jury members watched video of the shooting from police body cameras and dashboards. As Wright pulled her over, while another officer attempted to handcuff her, Potter repeatedly said that she would harass him, but instead shot him once in the chest with her gun, which left her hand. was in
“(Controversial)! I just shot him. … I grabbed the wrong (outrageous) gun,” Potter said on the video shown to the jury. Moments later, she said: “I’m going to jail.”
During his sometimes tearful testimony, Potter told jurors that he was “sorry that this happened.” She said the traffic stop “just got chaotic.”
The maximum prison sentence for first-degree murder is 15 years. Minnesota law only sentences defendants to their most serious convictions when multiple cases involve the same act and the same victim, and state guidelines call for about seven years on that charge.
Prosecutors have said they will seek to substantiate such provoking factors, which are said to be an upward departure from sentencing guidelines. In Potter’s case, he alleged that his actions were a danger to others, including his fellow officers, to Wright’s passenger and the couple whose car was hit by Wright after the shooting. He also alleged that he misused his authority as a police officer.
Potter’s lawyers argued that she made a tragic mistake, but she would also be justified in using lethal force because of the possibility of Potter’s fellow officer, then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson was in danger of being dragged if Wright had walked away from the traffic stop.
Potter testified that seeing the look of fear on Johnson’s face, she decided to act. But Aldridge told jurors that for most of the conversation, Potter was behind a third officer she was training and Johnson didn’t appear in front of her camera until after the shot had been fired—and then hit her head. Showed the top he retreated.
“Sergeant Johnson clearly wasn’t afraid of being dragged down,” Aldridge said. “He never said he was scared. He didn’t say that then, nor did he testify in court.”
Aldridge also noted an inconsistency in Potter’s testimony, saying that when he gave an interview to a psychologist working for the defense team, he told her he didn’t know why he used his Taser. Potter told the jury that he didn’t remember saying it.
First-degree murder required prosecutors to prove that Potter caused Wright’s death by committing a misdemeanor—in his case, reckless handling of a firearm. The second-degree charge required him to prove that Wright had died of “culpable negligence.”
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writers Mohamed Ibrahim in Minneapolis and Kathleen Foodie in Chicago contributed to this report.
Get full coverage of Associated Press’s Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright
This story has been corrected to remove the reference to Potter pulling his gun after shouting a Taser warning. The body camera video shows that his gun was in his hand at the time.