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Officer Who Killed Daunte Wright Makes 1st Court Appearance In Manslaughter Case

Former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer Kim Potter was arrested Wednesday and released later that day on a $100,000 bond.
Hennepin County, Minn., Sheriff's Office via Getty Images
Former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer Kim Potter was arrested Wednesday and released later that day on a $100,000 bond.

The former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer charged in the killing of Daunte Wright made her first appearance in court Thursday as members of the Wright family continued their call for consequences.

Police officials have said Kim Potter, a 48-year-old white woman, mistook her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, on Sunday. In body camera footage, Potter can be heard yelling "Taser!" just before shooting him.

The Washington County Attorney's Office has charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter. She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Potter was arrested Wednesday and released later that day after posting a $100,000 bond.

She is being represented by Earl Gray, a high-profile Minnesota defense attorney who has represented multiple police officers and former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. One of his current clients is Thomas Lane, a former Minneapolis police officer who helped restrain George Floyd.

Thursday's court appearance was brief and conducted via Zoom.

Her next appearance has been scheduled for May 17 in person. The case has been assigned to Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu.

Naisha Wright, aunt of Daunte Wright, held up pictures of a Taser and a handgun in an expression of skepticism of the police characterization of the shooting as an "accident."
Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Naisha Wright, Daunte Wright's aunt, holds up pictures of a Taser and a handgun Thursday in Minneapolis. She questioned how the ex-police officer charged in her nephew's death could have mixed up the two.

Meanwhile, at a church in North Minneapolis, members of Wright's family and their attorney, Benjamin Crump, held a press conference where they continued to demand consequences for Potter. They also lamented their son's name joining those of other Black men killed by police officers in encounters that began over seemingly minor transgressions, such as Eric Garner selling loose cigarettes and Floyd using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill.

"They got no due process. They didn't get to have the officers come before the court of law and have the witnesses and evidence presented to a jury to make a determination," Crump said.

Crump has represented more than a dozen families in high-profile police brutality cases, many of which did not result in charges for the officers involved. He said the manslaughter charge against Potter was evidence of change coming to America.

"Daunte Wright did get a charge and an arrest of the officer that shot and killed him," he said. "So we are making progress, and I want to encourage those protesting — those young people, those activists — that you are making a difference."

At one point, Daunte's aunt Naisha Wright held up pictures of a Taser and a Glock handgun — questioning how Potter could have mixed the two up, as police officials have said.

According to the criminal complaint, the Taser used by Potter was bright yellow and holstered on her left hip, while her handgun, a Glock pistol, was worn on her right hip and would have been significantly heavier. The former chief of the Brooklyn Center police, who resigned Tuesday, described the shooting as "accidental."

"Justice? What is justice? Do we get to see Daunte's smile? We don't get to see that. Do we get to hear Daunte joke again? We don't get to hear that," Naisha Wright said. "My brother and my sister need this woman to be convicted."

In demanding Potter's conviction, Crump pointed to the case of Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Justine Damond, a white woman, in 2017.

Damond had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault taking place in the alley behind her home. When Noor and his partner arrived, they parked in the alley, where several minutes later Damond approached the driver's window. Noor shot and killed her, later explaining he feared for his partner's life.

Noor, who is Somali American, was charged with and convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison.

"All [the Wright] family is striving for is to get full accountability, to get equal justice. Nothing more, or nothing less," Crump said.

Activists in Minnesota have long complained that police officers who kill Black people have not faced similar consequences.

Several high-profile police killings have taken place in Minnesota in recent years — including those of Floyd and Philando Castile, who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop after disclosing he was legally carrying a gun. The officer's acquittal sparked protests in Minneapolis.

Noor is currently believed to be the only Minnesota officer convicted of murder in an on-duty police killing case. But jurors in Derek Chauvin's murder trial are set to hear closing arguments next week and begin their deliberations.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.