Former officer who shot Daunte Wright to face manslaughter charge

The former police officer who shot and killed a young black man in a suburb of Minneapolis will be charged Wednesday with second degree manslaughter, a prosecutor said.

Charges against Kim Potter will be filed in Hennepin County, said Pete Orput, the senior prosecutor for neighboring Washington County, who is handling the case.

Earl Gray, the attorney representing Potter, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday after killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright two days earlier during a traffic stop. Tim Gannon, the head of the department, has also resigned. He had described the shooting as an “accidental discharge” of Potter’s gun when she intended to use a Taser instead.

The Hennepin County medical examiner said Wright’s death was a homicide on Monday. The term in the medical context means “death at the hands of others” but does not imply legal guilt.

Second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison under Minnesota law. The law says that an individual has committed the crime when he or she “creates unreasonable risk and knowingly takes the risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to another”.

Wright’s murder happened a few miles from where former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is tried on charges of the murder of George Floyd, a black resident of Minneapolis whose death last year sparked protests for racial justice around the world.

Wright’s death ignited other protests. Police and protesters have been clashing for three nights now outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

Kim Potter, the policeman who shot Daunte Wright. The former police chief called the incident an ‘accidental discharge’ © AP

Police officers rarely face criminal charges when accused of misconduct. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Monday he was sending the case to Washington County, about 40 miles away, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest in the decision to bring whether or not to prosecute Potter.

Prosecutors in Minnesota’s five largest cities adopted the practice of referring cases of police misconduct between them a year ago.

Prosecutors rely on police officers to gather evidence in criminal cases. This relationship makes them dependent on the police and reluctant to charge officers, said Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a sociologist at Brown University who wrote Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court.

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