Ex-cop Kim Potter guilty of manslaughter in Daunte Wright killing

Eight months after former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter collapsed on the side of the road upon killing Daunte Wright and wailed, “I’m going to prison,” her words have come true. 

Potter was convicted of manslaughter Thursday and now faces 11 years in prison for pulling her gun instead of her Taser and killing Wright at a traffic stop.

Jurors began deliberating Monday on the first- and second-degree charges Potter was facing for the fatal April 11 encounter.

The jury was comprised of six men and six women. One of the jurors is black, two are Asian American and the other nine are white.

Potter, 49, shot Wright after he tried to flee cops seeking to arrest him on a weapons warrant during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. His death sparked national protests that happened alongside the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. 

Bodycam footage shown multiple times throughout the trial depicts the distraught officer, who has insisted she accidentally pulled her gun instead of her Taser that day.

Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter becomes emotional as she testifies in court, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Court TV, via AP, Pool
Damik Wright (C) brother of Daunte Wright celebrates at George Floyd Square after the verdict was announced in the trial of former police officer Kim Potter
Damik Wright, brother of Daunte Wright, celebrates at George Floyd Square after the verdict was announced in the trial of former police officer Kim Potter.
AFP via Getty Images
People react after the verdict was reached in Potter's case.
People react after the verdict was reached in Potter’s case.
Adam Bettcher/REUTERS

“Oh my God!” Potter said as another cop tried to console her, according to the footage released by police. “Holy s–t! I just shot him!”

The ex-cop was cuffed and taken from the courtroom into custody, and will be held in jail without bail until her sentencing on Feb. 18. While notably emotional on the stand, often testifying through tears, Potter was stone-faced during the reading of the guilty verdict. 

Her lawyer Earl Gray argued she should be able to return home until her sentencing, saying “Her bail right now is $100,000, she’s got that posted. She’s not going to run.”

Judge Regina Chu refused the request. “I cannot treat this case any differently than any other case,” the Hennepin County judge said.

Kim Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter for the encounter in which she fatally shot Daunte Wright when he attempted to flee officers seeking to arrest him on a weapons charge.
Kim Potter said she never meant to hurt anybody and apologized for the incident.
Potter now faced up to 11 years behind bars.
Potter now faces up to 11 years behind bars.

When Potter took the stand during her testimony, she wailed an apology and struggled to maintain composure.

“I’m so sorry,” she cried. “I’m sorry it happened … I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge, also a member of the prosecuting team in the Chauvin trial, said in her closing arguments that Potter’s actions were “no little ‘oopsie.’”

“This was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions. It was precisely the thing she was warned about for years and she was trained to prevent it.” In her opening remarks, she said Potter “betrayed her badge.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison — who successfully got a murder conviction against Chauvin — took over the prosecution in the case.

Erin Eldridge
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge said Kim Potter “betrayed her badge” and called her actions a “colossal screw-up.”
A woman named Courtney cries after the outcome was reached.
A woman named Courtney cries after the outcome was reached.
Adam Bettcher/REUTERS

Defense attorney Earl Gray said what happened was a mistake, and blamed Wright for his own death, saying if he had complied with the officers’ demands, he would still be alive today.

“She made a mistake, and, my gosh, a mistake is not a crime,” Gray said.

Wright, who was just 20 years old at the time of his death and the father of a young child, was unarmed during the traffic stop.

His girlfriend was in the car at the time of the fatal encounter, testifying at the trial that she frantically tried to help him from the passenger seat. 

Earl Gray
Defense attorney Earl Gray said Kim Potter “made a mistake,.” and that if Daunte Wright had complied with officers, he’d still be alive today.
Wright's brother Damik was emotional after hearing the verdict.
Wright’s brother Damik was emotional after hearing the verdict.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“I grabbed like whatever was in the car,” Alayna Albrecht-Payton said, fighting through tears. 

“I didn’t know what to do, so I just put my hands over his chest and I just tried to hold it and just started to scream his name,” she said. “I was just trying to have him talk to me and just kept saying, Daunte, like, Daunte, can you say something, please. Talk to me.”

Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said her “son had a smile that was worth a million dollars.”

Daunte Wright and son Daunte Jr.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old at the time of the shooting and was the father of a young son.

“When he walked in the room, he lit up the room,” she said at his April funeral that was attended by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

“We know that this tragedy is connected to the deep and systemic racism endemic in this country,” the governor told mourners at the funeral.

Wright had recently moved from Chicago to Minneapolis before he was killed by Potter. His family said he was working retail and food service jobs to support his young son and hadn’t graduated high school. 

Police moved to arrest him at the traffic stop in April 2021 after running his name and learning he had an open warrant out for his arrest. Wright had allegedly been involved in an armed robbery, had failed to appear in court, fled officers during a police encounter, and possessed a gun without a permit. 

Daunte Wright
The incident occurred when Daunte Wright was caught in a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center. He was shot when he attempted to flee arrest on a weapons warrant. His girlfriend was in the car at the time of the shooting.

Wright’s family commended the jury for its guilty verdict, saying in a statement through their civil attorneys that they feel “relieved that the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death of their son, brother, father and friend.” 

“From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training and protocols,” the statement said. “We must now turn our attention to ensuring that Kim Potter receives the strongest and most just sentence possible.”

Potter resigned just days after the shooting, as did former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who testified in Wright’s defense that he “saw no violation” of department policy during the deadly stop that set off national demonstrations.

Katie Bryant
Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother, said he had a smile that “lit up a room.”
Protest outside of Kim Potter trial.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the shooting was caused by “systemic racism.”
AFP via Getty Images

Bodycam footage from Brooklyn Center, Minn., Sgt. Mychal Johnson shown at the trial depicts a distraught Potter, rocking back and forth while lying facedown on a lawn with her head in her hands and her feet in the street in the moments after she shot Wright dead.

Johnson testified that Potter made a mistake, but force was justified because he could have been dragged if Wright had hit the gas.

“Kim, we’ll get it all figured out, OK,” he was seen telling Potter on his bodycam footage as she leaned against a fence.