By SCOTT BAUER and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER Associated Press
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota prosecutor said Wednesday that he will charge a white former suburban Minneapolis police officer with second-degree manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright in a shooting that ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police.
Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter will be charged Wednesday, three days after Wright was killed during a traffic stop, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
An attorney for Potter did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.
The former police chief has said that Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, had intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead. However, protesters and Wright’s family members say there’s no excuse for the shooting and it shows how the justice system is tilted against Blacks, noting Wright was stopped for expired car registration and ended up dead.
Potter, 48, resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday as did Police Chief Tim Gannon.
Gannon had released Potter’s body camera video the day after Sunday’s shooting. It showed her approaching Wright as he stood outside of his car as another officer was arresting him for an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June. Police said he was pulled over for having expired registration tags.
As Wright struggles with police, Potter is hearing shouting “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single shot from her handgun.
The charging decision was announced as the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin progresses in the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott had said he hoped Potter’s resignation would “bring some calm to the community,” but that he would keep working toward “full accountability under the law.”
“We have to make sure that justice is served, justice is done. Daunte Wright deserves that. His family deserves that,” Elliott said.
Police and protesters faced off again after nightfall Tuesday, with hundreds of demonstrators gathering again at Brooklyn Center’s heavily guarded police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence, and where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch.
About 90 minutes before a 10 p.m. curfew, state police announced over a loudspeaker that the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters launching fireworks toward the station and throwing objects at police, who launched flashbangs and gas grenades, and then marched in a line to force back the crowd.
“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, warning that anyone not leaving would be arrested. The state police said the dispersal order came before the curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police. The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave the scene.
Brooklyn Center, a suburb just north of Minneapolis, has seen its racial demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70% of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Hispanic.
Elliott said he didn’t have at hand information on the police force’s racial diversity but that “we have very few people of color in our department.”
Potter was an instructor with the Brooklyn Center police, according to the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. She was training two other officers Sunday when they stopped Wright, the association’s leader, BIll Peters, told the Star Tribune.
In her one-paragraph letter of resignation, Potter said, “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”
Bauer contributed from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writers Doug Glass and Mohamed Ibrahim in Minneapolis; Tim Sullivan in Brooklyn Center; and Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this report.