Former officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright to face manslaughter charge

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

The charges against Kim Potter will be filed in Hennepin County, said Pete Orput, the top prosecutor in neighbouring Washington County, which is handling the case.

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

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

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

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

Wright’s killing happened just miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is being tried on charges of murdering George Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident whose death last year set off protests for racial justice around the world.

Wright’s death ignited further protests. Police and protesters have faced off for three nights now outside Brooklyn Center Police Department.

Kim Potter, the police officer who shot Daunte Wright. The former police of chief described the incident as an ‘accidental discharge’ © AP

Police officers seldom face criminal charges when they are accused of misconduct. Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman on Monday said he was sending the case to Washington County, about 40 miles away, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest in the decision on whether to bring criminal charges against Potter.

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

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

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