Former cop who shot Wright faces manslaughter charge

Wright’s death has fueled tensions in Minneapolis as cop accused of murdering George Floyd stands trial.

An activist holds a sign during a march for Daunte Wright, 20, who was shot and killed by former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021 [Nick Pfosi/Reuters]

Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright, a Black man, will face second-degree manslaughter charges, local media reported on Wednesday.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said the Washington County Attorney Peter Orput confirmed the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years prison and a $20,000 fine.

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Al Jazeera’s requests for confirmation to the Washington County Attorney’s office were not immediately returned.

Potter was arrested on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency. She started working with the Brooklyn Center police in 1995, when she was 22, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The 26-year veteran allegedly shot and killed Wright, 20, on Sunday after confusing her pistol and her Taser.

Former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon called the incident an “accident” after unveiling body-worn camera footage showing Wright’s shooting.

It showed a struggle between Wright and the officer. Wright then got back into the car and an officer could be heard yelling “Taser! Taser!”

A person uses a megaphone as activists confront authorities following a march for Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021 [Nick Pfosi/Reuters]

The footage shows an altercation between police and Wright, whose family says he was pulled over for hanging air fresheners. A female officer draws her pistol, screams “Taser! Taser!” and shoots before Wright drives away.

A female officer, presumably Potter, then says: “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”

Gannon and Potter both resigned on Tuesday. Lawyer Earl Grey will represent Potter, the Star Tribune reported.

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Minneapolis, said on Wednesday that the police claim that Potter mistook her gun for a taser has been met with “a certain amount of incredulity”.

“Not least because the gun and the taser are positioned on different sides of her body, they’re very different weights, and so on,” he said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the Wright family, said the shooting “was no accident”.

“This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force. Driving while Black continues to result in a death sentence. A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a taser and a firearm,” Crump said.

Wright’s death occurred amid the ongoing trial of white former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on second- and third-degree murder charges related to the death of George Floyd last May. Floyd was a Black man.

Chauvin’s defence is currently fighting an uphill battle to plant seeds of doubt among jurors after the prosecution rested their “stellar” case on Tuesday, legal experts told Al Jazeera.

Floyd’s death set off an international movement against racism and police brutality which appears to be picking up in the US.

Demonstrations were already being held outside the Hennepin County Government Center (HCGC), where Chauvin’s trial is taking place.

Wright’s death, which occurred a few miles from the HCGC, renewed protests, which have resulted in clashes between police and demonstrators around Minneapolis with some participants smashing windows and looting businesses.

Law enforcement officers stand guard following a march for Daunte Wright, 20  in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13, 2021 [Nick Pfosi/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera