Former police officer Kim Potter will be sentenced early next year after a Minnesota jury found her guilty Thursday of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.
Potter, who is white, shot and killed 20-year-old Wright, who was Black, while attempting to arrest him during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis.
She and a trainee officer said they pulled Wright over because he had a blinker on in the wrong turn lane, expired tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. They attempted to detain him after discovering a warrant for his arrest and an order of protection against him.
Potter (49) shot Wright repeatedly with her pistol during the struggle while shouting “Taser!”
More:Kim Potter, an ex-police officer found guilty in Daunte’s murder of Manslaughter
It occurred just miles away from the Minneapolis courthouse during Derek Chauvin’s murder trial for George Floyd’s death. Wright’s death sparked days of protests and looting in Brooklyn Center and inflamed nationwide tensions over police violence in the U.S.
Like Chauvin, Potter was sent directly to state prison to await sentencing after the jury reached a verdict following 72 hours of deliberations. Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu denied a request from Potter’s defense attorney to release her on bail until sentencing, which is set for Feb. 18, 2022.
Kim Potter is serving how many years in prison
A first-degree murder charge can result in a 15 year sentence and/or $30,000 fine. Maximum sentence for the second-degree offense is 10 years, and/or $20,000 in fine.
Potter will not be sent to prison for the most serious offense. For someone with no criminal history, the presumptive sentence for first-degree manslaughter in Minnesota is about six to eight-and-a-half years, according to state guidelines.
In Minnesota, it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison and one-third on supervised release, known as parole.
Kim Potter, a former officer, was she reckless?How jurors had to rule in Daunte’s death
How will Kim Potter be sentenced?
To determine Potter’s sentence, Chu will likely consider arguments made by both sides, victim impact statements and whether Potter makes a statement that takes responsibility or shows remorse at her sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors said Potter should face harsher sentencing because of two aggravating factors: she abused her position of authority and “caused a greater than normal danger” to the safety of other people nearby, including the passenger in Wright’s vehicle, two officers on the scene and civilians on the busy public street.
Meanwhile, Potter’s attorney Paul Engh said he will seek a “dispositional departure” from sentencing guidelines, meaning he’ll ask the judge to stay the sentence and allow Potter to be put on probation, home monitoring or serve her sentence in a local jail instead of prison.
For on-duty shootings, police are seldom prosecuted
Law enforcement officers fatally shoot about 1,000 people a year, but arrests and convictions are rare in fatal police shootings partly because officers are able to use lethal force to defend themselves or others.
Philip Stinson (a Bowling Green State University professor of criminology who studies police misconduct) says that “almost all” police shootings can be justified.
Fact check:For on-duty shootings, police are seldom prosecuted
Police have fatally shot more than 6,300 people since 2015, according to a Washington Post’s database created after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In that time, Stinson found 91 officers were arrested on murder or manslaughter charges stemming from an on-duty shooting
Since 2005, seven officers have been convicted of murder, 37 were convicted of lesser offenses and 53 were not convicted. Meanwhile, 45 more criminal cases are ongoing.
Take a look at Minnesota’s similar cases
Earlier this year, Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22 1/2 years for second-degree unintentional murder in Floyd’s death.
The presumptive sentence was 12 1/2 years, but Cahill found aggravating factors including that Chauvin abused his position of authority, treated Floyd with particular cruelty and knew that kneeling on Floyd’s neck was dangerous, and that several children witnessed the crime.
In October, Judge Kathryn Quaintance resentenced former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor to four years and nine months in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Damond Ruszczyk.
Quaintance gave Noor, who’s murder conviction was overturned, a sentence at the top of the guidelines’ range because he shot “across the nose” of his partner and endangered others. The sentencing guidelines did not allow for a “upward departure”, so he didn’t face an even harsher sentence.
An African cop was convicted of murder.Justice is difficult for the Minneapolis Somali community.
Contributing: Rick Rouan, USA TODAY; The Associated Press