Former Minnesota police officer charged in Wright death appears in court

Former Minnesota police officer charged in Wright death appears in court
Former Minnesota police officer charged in Wright death appears in court

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Kim Potter poses for a booking photograph at Hennepin County Jail for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, in Minneapolis, Minnesota April 14, 2021. ― Handout via Reuters

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MINNEAPOLIS, April 16 ― The former Minnesota police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a young Black man during a traffic stop made her first court appearance yesterday as the slain motorist's family called for “full accountability” for his death.

Kimberly Potter, 48, who turned in her badge on Tuesday and posted US$100,000 (RM413,029) bond hours after her arrest on Wednesday, waved to the judge as she appeared for the brief hearing online with her lawyer from his office.

Potter, wearing a plaid shirt, was not asked any questions about the case or her intended plea, and spoke only to say: “Yes, I am,” when asked to affirm her attendance for the record.

She waived her right to a formal reading of the criminal complaint charging her with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday in the town of Brooklyn Center.

The shooting, which the now-former police chief said appeared to result from Potter mistakenly drawing her handgun rather than a Taser, has ignited four nights of street demonstrations and civil unrest in the Minneapolis suburb.

Hennepin County Judge Paul Scoggin set the next court date for May 17 and ordered Potter, who served 26 years on the Brooklyn Center force and was president of the local police union, not to use firearms or explosives for the duration of her case.

‘We’re still going to bury our son’

Prior to the hearing, the Wright family and their lawyers gathered at the church in Minneapolis where his funeral will be held next Thursday to remember the father of a 2-year-old son and press for an aggressive prosecution of Potter.

“The last few days, everybody has asked me what do we want to see happen,” Wright's mother Katie Wright said. “I do want accountability, 100 per cent accountability. ... But even when that happens, if that happens, we're still going to bury our son.”

In trying to win a second-degree manslaughter verdict, prosecutors must show that Potter was culpably negligent and took an “unreasonable risk” in shooting Wright. He was pulled him over for what police said was an expired vehicle registration tag that led them to find an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a misdemeanor firearms offense.

Police video of the incident shows Potter threatening to stun Wright with her Taser before firing her handgun. Former Police Chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned on Tuesday, said she mistakenly used her service weapon instead of her Taser.

In the video, Potter can be heard shouting: “Taser, Taser, Taser!” as she draws her gun and opens fire on Wright in his car after he had just broken away from a fellow officer trying to handcuff him.

Potter is then heard saying: “Holy shit, I just shot him.”

The medical examiner determined Wright died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, ruling the case a homicide.

If convicted, Potter, who is white, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a US$20,000 fine. Her lawyer, Earl Gray, did not respond to a request for comment before the hearing.

Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Wright family, said the shooting reflected a broader problem of law enforcement in the United States using excessive force and having a propensity to “overpolice marginalised minorities, especially Black men.”

But Crump said the move to charge Potter also represented some progress following the lack of prosecutions of officers involved in the deaths of Black men such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown in recent years.

“All this family is striving for is to get full accountability, get equal justice. Nothing more and nothing less,” Crump told the briefing at the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

The shooting escalated tensions in a region already on edge over the ongoing murder trial of white former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

Hundreds of protesters massed outside Brooklyn Center police headquarters for a fourth night on Wednesday. About two dozen people were arrested on charges including curfew violations. The protests were smaller and more peaceful than on Tuesday night, when 72 people were arrested, police said. ― Reuters

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