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Tipsheet

Former Minnesota Cop Receives Sentence for Killing of Daunte Wright

Court TV, via AP, Pool

Former Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter was sentenced Friday to 16 months behind bars for killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright at a traffic stop last year, mistaking her gun for a taser.

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The sentence, significantly below the recommended minimum for manslaughter charges, was given by Judge Regina Chu despite objections from the prosecution after Potter apologized to the Wright family.

"To the family of Daunte Wright, I am so sorry that I brought the death of your son, father, brother, uncle, grandson, nephew," Potter said in the courtroom.

Addressing Wright's mother, Potter said, "Katie, I understand a mother's love, and I am sorry I broke your heart. My heart is broken for all of you."

Wright's mother, however, said she could never forgive Potter for taking her son away from her.

"I will never be able to forgive you for what you have stolen from us," she said. "You took his future."

Potter will serve 16 months in prison followed by eight months of supervised release. She was also given credit for the 58 days she already served in prison and will have to pay a $1,000 fine.

Chu decided on a lenient sentence based on Potter's remorse, the fact that the killing was a mistake and expert testimony showing that the use of a taser during the traffic stop was justified. 

"She showed that today, she showed that when it happened," the judge said of Potter's remorse. "She never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines."

The judge, again acknowledging that the sentencing is a far cry from sentencing guidelines, asked that Potter be treated with empathy.

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"I recognize there will be those who disagree with the sentence. That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright's life. His life mattered. And to those who disagree and feel a longer prison sentence is appropriate, as difficult as it may be, please try to empathize with Ms. Potter's situation," Chu said.

Prosecutors argued for the presumptive sentence of just over seven years in prison while Potter's defense asked for just probation, calling her actions an "innocent mistake."

Potter, convicted of first and second-degree manslaughter in December, was only facing the first charge because, under Minnesota law, defendants are only sentenced for the top charge. Sentencing for first-degree manslaughter carries a 15-year maximum sentence and second-degree has a 10-year maximum.

"Today's sentencing of Kim Potter leaves the family of Daunte Wright completely stunned," Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family, said in a statement. "While there is a small sense of justice because she will serve nominal time, the family is also deeply disappointed there was not a greater level of accountability."

The ex-cop was attempting to arrest Wright on April 11, 2021, after seeing an expired registration tag on his vehicle. She then determined he had a warrant for a misdemeanor weapons charge and tried to arrest him.

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Wright was able to free himself from Potter and her fellow officer and tried to reenter his vehicle in an attempt to flee the scene.

Potter's colleague was on the opposite side of the car and at risk of being dragged away when she then tried to pull a taser to stop Wright but mistakenly fired her gun instead, killing him.

"I'll tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!" Potter said before firing her gun. "I grabbed the wrong f---king gun," she can be heard saying in body camera footage before collapsing to the curb.

The shooting involving a white cop and a black man sparked protests in the same city that prompted the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Chu explained that Potter's case is different than that of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who last spring was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

"This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for 9½ minutes as he gasped for air," Chu said. "This is a cop who made a tragic mistake."

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