Kim Potter trial: Who is the former Minnesota officer and why did she shoot Daunte Wright?

Former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter’s trial for shooting dead Daunte Wright will kick off with opening arguments on Wednesday, 8 December.

Ms Potter, 49, a former Brooklyn Center Police Department officer faces charges of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, at a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb in April 2021.

The mostly-white jury will be presented with starkly different views Ms Potter, with the defence claiming that she made an innocent mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and the prosecution portraying her as a veteran cop who had gone through extensive training that warned of such a mix-up.

According to the complaint lodged in the case on 11 April, Ms Potter and another officer she was training stopped Wright’s car at a traffic signal because it had an expired registration tag, and an air freshener was hanging from the rearview mirror.

Once he was pulled over, Ms Potter determined that Wright had an outstanding warrant against him on a gross misdemeanour charge, and tried to arrest him along with two other officers.

As Wright attempted to drive away, Ms Potter can be heard on body camera video saying “taser, taser taser” before firing, followed by: “I grabbed the wrong [expletive] gun.”

The video also showed her holding her handgun for about five seconds before firing.

Ms Potter resigned two days later in “the best interest of the community”.

Kim Potter (Hennepin County Sheriff)

The incident sparked widespread protests in the Minneapolis area, where tensions were already high as another white police officer, Derek Chauvin, was at the time facing trial for the murder of George Floyd, a Black man.

During jury selection last week, attorneys went through potential jurors looking at their attitudes toward Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and policing just as in Chauvin’s trial through questionnaires filled out by them.

Around 200 potential jurors responded to questionnaires similar to the ones given out during Chauvin’s trial. In the questionnaire, jurors were asked to provide information on what they already know about the case and whether they have positive or negative impressions about Ms Potter and Wright.

They were also asked whether they participated in protests following Wright’s death, if they carried any signs in these protests and what these signs said.

Daunte Wright with his two-year-old son (Family Handout)

Potential jury members were also asked whether anyone they know had been injured or if their property was damaged due to BLM protests.

Questions also revolved around policing, whether they have a positive or negative view about policing and whether they believed that the police should be defunded.

Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, first-degree manslaughter calls for a sentence of just over seven years and four years for second-degree.

But prosecutors have said they’ll seek a longer sentence. Wright is being represented by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who also represented George Floyd’s family.

Additional reporting by agencies

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