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Former Minnesota police officer charged in Wright death appears in court

GlobalApr 16, 2021 02:56
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2/2 © Reuters. Kim Potter poses for a booking photograph at Hennepin County Jail 2/2

By Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) -The former Minnesota police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a young Black man during a traffic stop made her first court appearance on Thursday as the slain motorist's family called for "full accountability" for his death.

Kimberly Potter, 48, who turned in her badge on Tuesday and posted $100,000 bond hours after her arrest on Wednesday, waved to the judge as she appeared for the brief hearing online, seated in her lawyer's office.

Potter, wearing a plaid shirt, was not asked any questions about the case or her intended plea, and spoke only to say: "Yes, I am," when asked to affirm her attendance for the record.

She waived her right to a formal reading of the criminal complaint charging her with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Hennepin County Judge Paul Scoggin set the next court date for May 17 and ordered Potter, who served 26 years on the Brooklyn Center force, not to use firearms or explosives for the duration of her case.

The shooting, which the then-police chief has said appeared to result from Potter mistaking her handgun for a Taser, has sparked nightly street demonstrations and civil unrest in Brooklyn Center, beginning immediately after Wright was killed.

A couple hundred protesters rallied outside Brooklyn Center police headquarters again on Thursday evening.

The mood was largely festive. But individuals in the crowd persisted in shouting taunts at sheriff's deputies or National Guard troops posted on the opposite side of a double barricade of concrete and chain-link fencing erected in front of the building.

'WE'RE STILL GOING TO BURY OUR SON'

Earlier in the day, members of the Wright family and their lawyers gathered at the church in Minneapolis where his funeral will be held next Thursday to remember the father of a 2-year-old son and press for an aggressive prosecution of Potter.

"The last few days, everybody has asked me what do we want to see happen," Wright's mother, Katie Wright, said. "I do want accountability, 100% accountability. ... But even when that happens, if that happens, we're still going to bury our son."

In trying to win a second-degree manslaughter verdict, prosecutors must show that Potter was culpably negligent and took an "unreasonable risk" in shooting Wright. He was pulled over for what police said was an expired vehicle registration tag that led them to find an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a misdemeanor firearms offense.

Police video of the incident shows Potter threatening to stun Wright with her Taser before firing her handgun. Former Police Chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned on Tuesday, said she mistakenly used her service weapon instead of her Taser.

In the video, Potter can be heard shouting: "Taser, Taser, Taser!" as she draws her gun and opens fire on Wright in his car after he had just broken away from a fellow officer trying to handcuff him.

Potter is then heard saying: "Holy shit, I just shot him."

The medical examiner determined Wright died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, ruling the case a homicide.

If convicted, Potter, who is white, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Her lawyer, Earl Gray, did not respond to a request for comment before the hearing.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family, said the shooting reflected a broader problem of law enforcement in the United States using excessive force and having a propensity to "overpolice marginalized minorities, especially Black men."

But Crump said the move to charge Potter also represented some progress following the lack of prosecutions of officers involved in the deaths of Black men such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown in recent years.

"All this family is striving for is to get full accountability, get equal justice. Nothing more and nothing less," Crump told the briefing at the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

The shooting escalated tensions in a region already on edge over the ongoing murder trial of white former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

Hundreds of protesters massed outside Brooklyn Center police headquarters for a fourth night on Wednesday. About two dozen people were arrested on charges including curfew violations. The protests were smaller and more peaceful than on Tuesday night, when 72 people were arrested, police said.

Former Minnesota police officer charged in Wright death appears in court
 

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