A jury convicted former suburban Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter on Thursday (Dec. 23) who was charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting in April of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
The 12-member jury deliberated more than 27 hours over four days to reach the unanimous verdict, convicting Potter of two counts of manslaughter.
In the end, the mostly white jury agreed with the prosecutor, Erin Eldridge, who said in her closing arguments that Potter did not have “a license to kill” and was unjustified in using deadly force.
The ex-officer, who is white, testified on Friday (Dec. 17) that she mistook her gun for a Taser when she fired at the 20-year-old Black man. The 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center, Minn., police force, was charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Earl Gray countered that Potter made an honest mistake, and that’s not a crime. Gray added that Wright was responsible for his own death by trying to flee in his car from officers during an arrest.
A judge will sentence Potter at a later hearing. According to The New York Times, the two counts are separate and not mutually exclusive and faces up to 15 years in prison on the first-degree manslaughter charge and up to 10 years for the second-degree manslaughter charge.
On April 11, Potter and other officers pulled Wright over for expired license plate tags, but discovered he had outstanding warrants for his arrest. Footage of the traffic stop shows Wright initially outside of his vehicle. When the police realized he had a warrant for a misdemeanor weapons charge, he jumped back into his car apparently attempting to drive away.
She yelled, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" but drew her handgun instead of the Taser and fired a single shot. He drove away, only a few hundred feet, where his car was found crashed into another vehicle.
Wright was a new dad. Chyna Whitaker, the mother of Wright’s child previously said, "I’m just really hurt for my son because he doesn’t have his father now. It’s kind of stressful on me. I really don’t want to do this by myself. I feel like I’m by myself.”
Wright's death ignited angry protest in the Minneapolis area for several days. The shooting happened as another white officer, Derek Chauvin, was on trial for the murder of George Floyd.
Many were on edge because the guilty verdict wasn’t certain. On Tuesday (Dec. 21), the jurors appeared to signal that they might be deadlocked. They sent a note asking Judge Regina Chu what to do if they can’t reach a verdict, the New York Post reported.
“You should not hesitate to re-examine your views and change your opinion if you become convinced they are erroneous, but you should not surrender your honest opinion simply because other jurors disagree, or merely to reach a verdict,” Chu responded.
Potter, in tearful testimony from the witness stand, said she didn’t intend to use deadly force against Wright. The traffic stop “just went chaotic” after Wright tried to get back into his car and leave, she testified.