A jury just found former police officer Kim Potter guilty of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges on Thursday for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright that occurred during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021. The highly-anticipated verdict was reached after jurors deliberated for about 27 hours over a four-day time period.
Potter, 49, pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the incident in which she killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was resisting arrest after being pulled over. During the altercation, Potter drew her gun, thinking it was a taser, and fired one shot, which killed Wright.
While testifying before the jury, Potter broke down in tears when she recounted the incident. She apologized and said she “didn’t want to hurt anybody.” She recalled yelling “taser, taser, taser” during the encounter which was likely one of the factors that resulted in her not being charged with murder.
The maximum penalty for first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/ handling of a firearm is 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. However, since Potter has no criminal history, Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence roughly between 6 and 8.5 years in prison.
Prosecutors in October told the court they will seek a more severe sentence than what state guidelines recommend, arguing that Potter caused “greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people.”
If the judge agrees, the former officer might face a longer sentence than what is normally given in this type of case. Minnesota law mandates that she will have to serve at least two-thirds of her sentence and could be eligible for early supervised release for the other third.
The outcome was centered on what the jury believed about Potter’s actions on that day. A local ABC News affiliate explained:
The judge said for first-degree manslaughter, prosecutors must prove that Potter caused Wright’s death while committing the crime of reckless handling of a firearm. This means they must prove that she committed a conscious or intentional act while handling or using a firearm that creates a substantial or unjustifiable risk that she was aware of and disregarded, and that she endangered safety.
For second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors must prove she acted with culpable negligence, meaning she consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm.
This case was not an easy one to evaluate.
Unlike the unjustified shooting of Walter Scott or the justified shooting of Jacob Blake, this one wasn’t quite as clear cut. From the video footage, one can see that it was very likely Potter truly believed she was drawing her taser by what she was shouting beforehand. Also, her reaction after realizing she had fired a live bullet made it obvious this shooting was a mistake.
However, this mistake was fatal. While Wright was resisting arrest, he was not a threat to the officers attempting to apprehend him. Using a taser would have been appropriate, but lethal force, despite what some have argued, would not have been. If an average citizen had accidentally killed someone in a similar situation, there could be no doubt that they would be facing time in prison. The same laws should also apply to police officers, especially because they should be held to a higher standard.
Potter had been a trainer for a significant amount of time. She should have known which apparatus she was drawing, and it appears this might have been one of several reasons why the jury voted to acquit. But either way, this is still a tragic situation, especially since it is clear Potter did not mean to take Wright’s life and is obviously torn up about it.
The prosecution is going to seek a lengthier sentence for the former police officer. I’m not convinced that this would be justice. While this type of crime merits punishment, I have trouble looking at her the same way I look at Derek Chauvin, who showed a blatant disregard for the life of George Floyd, or Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott as he was running away. It is clearly not the same type of situation.
Either way, we can certainly expect the left to continue pushing their preferred racial narrative. Some will claim the verdict wasn’t enough and that Potter should have been convicted of murder. Others might acknowledge that the system worked, but still downplay it, so they can continue pretending that white officers are running around gunning down black men willy-nilly.
In the end, I think justice was done even if it makes me feel uneasy. The phrase “law and order” must apply to government officials just as it applies to the rest of us, even if it is not always comfortable.