Kimberly Potter has pleaded not guilty to both first and second degree manslaughter charges
Jury selection is set to begin on Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of a white former Minnesota police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a Black man whose April death sparked protests in a state already on edge over George Floyd’s killing.
Kimberly Potter, who was a police officer in the city of Brooklyn Center just north of Minneapolis, has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter charges. Her lawyers have said Potter, 49, mistakenly used her handgun instead of her stun gun in the death of Mr Wright, a 20-year-old shot during a traffic stop.
Her lawyers also have accused the prosecution of disregarding the conduct of Mr Wright, who they said resisted arrest and attempted to drive away. Ms Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, resigned after the incident.
Mr Wright’s shooting occurred only a few miles (km) from the courthouse where Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted in April of murder in the death of Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, during an arrest in May 2020.
Mr Floyd’s death sparked demonstrations in many US cities last year against police brutality and racism. Mr Wright’s shooting triggered several nights of demonstrations in Brooklyn Center, with many viewing the incident as yet another example of police violence against Black Americans.
Mr Wright was pulled over by police because he had an air freshener hanging from his car’s rearview mirror and the licence plate tabs had expired. In addition to Ms Potter, two other officers were on the scene as they attempted to detain Mr Wright after finding that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for a misdemeanour weapons violation.
Ms Potter can be heard on police body camera video shouting “I’ll tase you,” while pointing her handgun at Mr Wright. He was attempting to get back behind the steering wheel after struggling to get away from the grip of another officer. Ms Potter then shot Mr Wright in the chest.
Seconds after firing, she said she grabbed the wrong gun, adding, “I’m going to go to prison,” according to an amended criminal complaint submitted to the court in September.
Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Opening statements are slated to start 8 December Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu has ordered the jury fully sequestered once deliberations begin.
In Minnesota, the maximum sentences for first- and second-degree manslaughter are 15 years and 10 years, respectively.