Kim Potter, the white police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday, will be charged with second-degree manslaughter, a county prosecutor said Wednesday. This announcement comes after three nights of mass protests in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where Wright was killed.
Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Tuesday along with Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.
Potter shot Wright, a Black man, at close range on Sunday after pulling him over for hanging air fresheners on his rearview mirror, which many activists have noted has repeatedly been used as a pretense for police to target Black people. Police later claimed that they pulled him over for expired license plate tags.
Police have alleged that they attempted to arrest Wright over an outstanding warrant and that Potter shot him when he reentered his vehicle. Wright then drove a short distance away before hitting another car and was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, claimed she had meant to fire a taser at Wright but confused her stun gun for her firearm and shot him instead. Advocates and reporting have cast doubt on whether or not an officer, especially someone with as many years of experience on the force, could conceivably make a monumental mistake of that nature.
Hundreds of protesters have flooded the streets for three nights since Wright’s death calling for justice. Police have retaliated against the protesters with violence and used cruel tactics like pepper spray and tear gas, despite a ban on its use, to attack the demonstrators. Police have also arrested dozens of protesters thus far.
The protests also come as Derek Chauvin, the former officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, stands trial on murder and manslaughter charges. Though Chauvin’s trial is a flashpoint in the nation’s litigation of police-perpetrated brutality and killings, activists note that imprisoning police officers who kill Black people will not necessarily bring Black communities justice and peace.
“I understand the focus on consequences for Kim Potter but they could put her in an electric chair side by side with Chauvin right now for what she did and we’ll still be left with the murderous institution of policing having been altered in no substantive way,” wrote activist and artist Bree Newsome Bass on Twitter.
Though cases like Chauvin’s and Potter’s are highly public, police officers often operate with impunity and many cases of brutality and violence go unreported. The officers who gunned down Breonna Taylor in her home in the middle of the night in Kentucky, for instance, have not faced any serious consequences for Taylor’s death. Even if Chauvin and Potter face consequences for their actions, however, many advocates say imprisonment and police reforms that only funnel more money to the police will not stop Black people from getting killed.
Progressive lawmakers have pushed back on the notion that Wright’s death was an accident.
“Daunte Wright’s killing was not a random, disconnected ‘accident,’” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter on Tuesday. “It was the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants impunity for state violence, rewards it with endlessly growing budgets at the cost of community investment, and targets those who question that order.”
“Cameras, chokehold bans, ‘retraining’ funds, and similar reform measures do not ultimately solve what is a systemic problem,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) similarly questioned the police department’s narrative on the shooting. “Not. An. Accident. Why was this cop wanting to pull a taser on a 20-year old kid for expired tags in the first place?” Jayapal wrote on Twitter. “Impossible that a veteran cop couldn’t tell difference between taser and gun.”