MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former Brooklyn Center Police officer Kim Potter made her first court appearance Thursday, remotely, in Hennepin County court.
Potter is facing a second-degree manslaughter charge after the shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Potter was dressed in a plaid shirt and appeared on camera when her attorney, Earl Gray, panned to show they were both in the same room.
Potter spoke when asked by the judge if she was present and said, “Yes, I am.”
Her court appearance, which lasted just around five minutes, comes four days after she shot and killed Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center. Authorities say the 26-year veteran officer was training another officer during her shift Sunday when they pulled Wright over.
They discovered Wright had an outstanding warrant, and asked him to get out of the vehicle.
Court documents say when Wright pulled away from officers, it was six seconds from the time Potter said she was going to Taser Wright to when she shot him using her handgun.
One second before firing a single fatal shot, body cameras captured Potter saying “Taser, Taser, Taser.”
Defense attorney Gray also represented ex-St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter, the same charge, after shooting and killing Philando Castile in 2016, also during a traffic stop.
Potter’s next court appearance will be on May 17. If convicted of the charge, she could face up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
(AP) — Potter, 48, and Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned Tuesday, a day after the City Council voted to fire the city manager, who controls the police force. Acting City Manager Reggie Edwards said Wednesday that because Potter resigned, she is entitled to “all accrual and benefits that is due.” Mayor Mike Elliott has said that the city had been moving toward firing Potter when she submitted her resignation.
Wright family attorney Ben Crump said the family appreciates the criminal case, but he again disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.
“Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant,” he said.
Experts say cases of officers mistakenly firing their gun instead of a Taser are rare, usually less than once a year nationwide.
Transit officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison after responding to a fight at a train station in Oakland, California, killing 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2009. Mehserle testified at trial that he mistakenly pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead of his stun gun.
In Oklahoma, a white volunteer sheriff’s deputy for Tulsa County, Robert Bates, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter after accidentally firing his handgun when he meant to deploy his stun gun on Eric Harris, a Black man who was being held down by other officers in 2015.
Potter was an instructor with Brooklyn Center police, according to the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.
Brooklyn Center had a 10 p.m. curfew Wednesday, the fourth night in a row that the city has taken that action. Elliott, the mayor, urged people to protest without violence, saying “your voices have been heard.”
But for the fourth straight night, demonstrators clashed with police stationed behind a chain-link fence protecting the city’s police station. Several hundred protesters filled the street in front of the station despite a mix of snow and rain, chanting “Say his name! Daunte Wright!”
With an hour before curfew, police declared the protest and unlawful assembly and ordered people to disperse, citing objects being thrown at officers and attempts to dismantle the fence — the same reason given for a similar order Tuesday.
Operation Safety Net said 22 people were arrested in Brooklyn Center overnight; 18 of the arrests were for probable cause riot, three for curfew violation, and one for failure to obey lawful order.
Shortly before the dispersal order, some protesters threw objects at police, who responded with occasional gas canisters. Some officers could be seen spraying a chemical on protesters who came near the fence surrounding the heavily guarded station, and officers fired sporadic projectiles. Protesters near the fence formed a wall with umbrellas.
Outside Potter’s home in Champlin, north of Brooklyn Center, concrete barricades and tall metal fencing had been set up and police cars were in the driveway. After Floyd’s death last year, protesters demonstrated several times at the home of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer now on trial in Floyd’s death.
Brooklyn Center, a suburb just north of Minneapolis, has seen its racial demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Hispanic.
However, Elliott has acknowledged that the police force has “very few people of color.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)