As protesters massed for a second night of demonstrations over the police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, authorities on Monday identified the shooter as Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter.
Potter, 48, is a 26-year veteran and has served as her police union’s president, the Star Tribune reported. At an earlier news conference, where authorities played a nearly one-minute dash-cam recording of the fatal incident, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said it appears that Potter intended to fire her Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun.
Potter has been suspended pending the results of a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation, the agency said. On Monday, Brooklyn Center leaders dismissed the city manager, potentially giving Mayor Mike Elliot the ability to fire the chief or officers in the department.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said he expects to complete a “thorough yet expedited” review of potential criminal charges in the case by no later than Wednesday, he told the Star Tribune.
“I’m hoping Wednesday, but I want to have the opportunity to give my condolences to his family and explain to them my decision,” Orput said.
The suburban city of about 30,000 residents has been rocked by Wright’s killing as the Minneapolis area watches the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murder after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.
According to local media, Potter has retained attorney Earl Gray. Gray is also representing former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, who has also been charged in Floyd’s death. Neither Potter nor Gray immediately responded to messages from The Washington Post as of early Monday.
Potter joined the Brooklyn Center Police Department in 1995, according to her LinkedIn page. She was first licensed as a police officer in Minnesota at age 22 that same year, the Star Tribune reported. In 2019, she was elected president of the Brooklyn Center Police Officer’s Association, according to the group’s Facebook page. She was also a longtime member of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, where she served on its “casket team.”
Potter, who is married to a former police officer and has two adult sons, most recently worked on the Brooklyn Center police’s negotiation team, the Star Tribune reported.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) April 13, 2021
She has been involved in one fatal police shooting in the past.
In 2019, Potter was among the first to arrive at a home in the Minneapolis suburb after two officers fatally shot a mentally ill man six times who allegedly lunged at them with a knife, according to a report released by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office last year.
Once paramedics arrived, Potter ordered both of the officers to leave the house, sit in separate squad cars and deactivate their body cameras. As the union president at the time, she escorted one of the officers from the scene back to the police station and was later present when BCA investigators interviewed both officers, the report states.
The officers were not charged in the fatal shooting after prosecutors found they acted with “reasonable fear” after first firing their Tasers.
Potter’s actions in Wright’s death are shown in the video released by police on Monday.
A little before 2 p.m. on Sunday, two other unnamed officers and Potter pulled over Wright because of allegedly expired registration tags. Potter was acting as a field training officer and was training a new officer on Sunday, Brian Peters, head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, told the Star Tribune.
When the officers asked Wright for his ID, Gannon said at a Monday news conference, they found Wright had an outstanding warrant for a misdemeanor and attempted to take him into custody.
The video clip shows Wright slipping from an officer’s grip and returning to his car. That’s when Potter pulls out her gun and yells, “I’ll Tase you!” and then “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing.
Seconds later, Potter yells, “Holy s—, I shot him,” apparently realizing that she had fired her gun instead of her Taser.
Wright drove a couple blocks before crashing another vehicle, police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Peters defended Potter’s prior record as an officer on the force.
“She’s just a very dedicated, passionate, good person. It’s completely devastating,” he told the Star Tribune. “She [is] just a good person, always willing to help out.”
On Monday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said Wright died of a gunshot wound to his chest and ruled his death a homicide.
City officials on Monday clashed over whether Potter should be disciplined beyond her suspension as the BCA investigation continues, with Elliott, the mayor, saying the officer should be fired. Gannon and then-City Manager Curt Boganey said they wanted to hear from the officer herself, citing due process. Boganey was fired later that day, giving Elliott the power to potentially fire the chief or officers on the force.
“Let me be very clear: My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” Elliott said at a news conference. “So I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”
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