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Ex-Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter to be sentenced in shooting of Daunte Wright

The shooting in Brooklyn Center triggered multiple nights of protests in the Minneapolis suburb, capturing national attention at a time many Americans were reckoning with racism and police violence.

Poster bearing image of Daunte Wright
A poster of Daunte Wright is seen during a demonstration after the opening statements in the manslaughter trial of Kimberly Potter, a white former Minnesota police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a Black man, whose April death sparked protests, in Minneapolis on December 8, 2021.
NICOLE NERI/REUTERS
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A Minnesota judge will sentence former police officer Kimberly Potter on Friday for manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, with prosecutors seeking seven years in prison and her lawyers asking for leniency.

Potter, 49 — who mistook her handgun for her Taser in firing on Wright, 20, as he resisted officers who pulled him over last April — was found guilty by a jury in December of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter.

The sentencing hearing in Minneapolis before Judge Regina Chu is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m..

The shooting in Brooklyn Center triggered multiple nights of protests in the Minneapolis suburb, capturing national attention at a time many Americans were reckoning with racism and police violence.

It happened just a few miles north of where Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was standing trial for killing George Floyd, a Black man whose 2020 death during an arrest helped set off demonstrations around the nation and the world.

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Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, was convicted of murder. Both he and Potter are white.

Kimberly Ann Potter.jpg
Kimberly Ann Potter

The Minnesota attorney general's office is arguing that Potter should be incarcerated for 86 months, or seven years and two months, in line with state guidelines for first-degree manslaughter.

Under state law, defendants facing multiple charges for the same act are sentenced only for the most serious count.

"Life is something this society holds in the highest regard," Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote in a memo to Judge Chu's court on Tuesday. "The degree of Defendant Potter's recklessness in handling her firearm and causing Daunte Wright's death cannot be excused or even minimized."

In arguing for leniency, Potter's lawyers cited her lack of a prior criminal record, her complaint-free 26 years on the police force, and the remorse she showed during emotional testimony at trial.

Potter's attorneys also pointed to research highlighting the power of public stigma to induce good behavior, arguing that it was a more effective deterrent to recidivism than prison.

"This Court's decision to have a televised trial resulted in her facial image viewed by the millions," attorneys Paul Engh and Earl Gray wrote in a sentencing memo, referring to the livestreamed trial. "Officer Potter is branded for the rest of her life."

They centered their argument on a 1982 state Supreme Court case affirming a lower-court sentencing of Richard Trog, who had pleaded guilty to burglary with assault, to five years probation rather than prison as dictated by the guidelines. They said that Judge Chu should look at Potter in a similar light to Trog, who did not have a prior criminal record and was contrite.

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"Mr. Trog got a break," they wrote. "She should, too."

Potter and a second officer pulled Wright over because there was an air freshener illegally hanging from his mirror and his vehicle registration tab had expired. They then learned of a warrant for his arrest on a misdemeanor weapons charge and sought to detain him. Wright resisted, breaking free from the second officer.

Potter then shouted, "Taser, Taser, Taser" and fired at Wright with her handgun, video from her body-worn camera showed. Potter testified that she feared for the life of a third officer who had entered the car through the passenger side.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; editing by Jonathan Oatis.)

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