A former police officer was released from prison early Monday morning after serving less than her full sentence behind bars for killing an unarmed Black driver in Minnesota in 2021.
Kim Potter, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright after purportedly confusing a Taser for a gun during a pretextual traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, walked out of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee following just two-thirds of her sentence. The 26-year police veteran in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, is expected to serve the remainder of her sentence on a conditional, supervised release, CNN reported.
Potter, 50, was sentenced to two years in February of last year in what was criticized as an extra-lenient punishment for professional negligence to lethal proportions on the former officer’s part.
While Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu said Potter was only required to serve just 16 months with the remaining eight months served on probation, the former officer leaving prison before the entire sentence was served is still a gut punch to Wright’s family, his mother said.
Potter’s “incarceration was just a moment in time,” Katie Wright told the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week while lamenting that the loss of her son’s life is forever.
Katie Wright, who has said Potter “murdered” her son, expounded on that sentiment during a recent interview with CNN:
“Some say I should forgive to be at peace but how can I? I am so angry. She is going to be able to watch her kids have kids and be able to touch them,” Katie Wright told CNN. “I am always scared I am going to forget my son’s voice. It gave us some sense of peace knowing she would not be able to hold her sons. She has two. I can’t hold my son.”
She said Potter not being able to serve as a police officer again, due in part to her conviction, has given her “a sense of peace.”
“She will never be able to hurt anybody as a police officer again,” Katie Wright said. “That is the only sense of peace we get as a family.”
The former Brooklyn Center officer was facing up to 25 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. First-degree manslaughter is a felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine as high as $30,000. Second-degree manslaughter is also a felony with a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $20,000.
Prosecutors had recommended more than seven years in prison for Potter, whose smiling mugshot following her conviction belied the alleged teary remorse she expressed on the witness stand during her trial.
But Chu openly sympathized with Potter during the sentencing, insisting that the former cop “made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone.”
It was decidedly in that context that Potter was released from prison on Monday morning.
Potter is expected to serve the remainder of her sentence in Wisconsin and will reportedly not return to Minnesota.
The Star Tribune reported the conditions of Potter’s release:
Maintain contact with and keep supervised release agent informed of place of residence and activities.
Submit to unannounced visits or searches and comply with drug or alcohol testing as directed.
Do not possess guns, ammunition or other dangerous weapons, including replica weapons.
Remain law abiding. Refrain from engaging in any assaultive, abusive, violent, harassing, stalking, or threatening behavior, or other behavior that poses a public risk.
No contact with the Wright family or others deemed by the DOC “to be a victim.”
Cannot leave Wisconsin with permission.
What happened to Daunte Wright?
Daunte Wright was shot and killed on April 11, 2021. His death came during the murder trial for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty and convicted for killing George Floyd in 2020.
Wright was also pulled over in what is often described as a pretextual traffic stop — when cops use minor violations to pull over what statistics show is a disproportionate number of Black and brown motorists as a means to investigate them for other possible offenses. He was allegedly guilty of having too many items hanging from his rearview mirror.
But after Wright was pulled over, it was determined he was driving a car with expired registration tags. Potter was standing next to the car when officers asked Wright to exit the car so he could be handcuffed for the offense. But when Wright jerked away and attempted to get back in the car, Potter grabbed her gun and shot him to death. She yelled “Taser!” but fired her service weapon instead.
Potter was trained to know the difference between a Taser and a firearm. Ironically, the former officer who also served on the negotiation team failed to offer any semblance of negotiation with Wright and instead was his judge, jury and executioner.
Brooklyn Center police authorities released footage of the event, where Potter can be heard saying, “Holy shit, I shot him,” moments after firing her gun. At the time, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon defended the shooting as an “accidental discharge.”
Kim Potter’s trial
During her trial, Potter took the stand to testify in her own defense and at first appeared relatively stoic as her lawyer questioned her. But when the topic turned to the fateful traffic stop, Potter’s countenance began to display an increasing amount of emotion that ultimately [d]evolved into a full-blown, wrinkled-up crying face, complete with her reaching for tissue paper using it to cover her face bowed forward.
However, there was one glaring omission from Potter’s emotional testimony: While she was audibly sobbing and using tissue for her face, there weren’t actually any tears coming out of her eyes. Potter kept speaking through gasps, sobs and weeps while her lawyer lobbed softball questions at her.
But when it came time for cross-examination, Potter’s face reverted to the previous version that was absent of any apparent remorse. Instead, while the prosecution questioned her, Potter responded with curt, one-word answers in apparent resentment.
Not only did Potter refuse to even try to humanize Wright — she would only refer to him as “the driver” — but the prosecution got her to admit on several occasions that shooting him violated department protocol (the law says that a gross warrant, for which Wright was being arrested, doesn’t call for a pursuit) and never properly prepared her equipment. Even more, photos from the traffic stop presented by the prosecution show Potter with her right hand on her gun as she approached the car. Tasers are kept on the left side of the holsters.
The prosecution also got Potter to admit that Wright never threatened her physically or verbally, facts that should have eliminated the option for using any force, let alone deploying a Taser.
Still, Potter was given the benefit of the doubt and given a sentence far shorter than prosecutors were seeking.
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