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Ex-police officer is sentenced to 2 years in Daunte Wright's death


A judge in Minnesota today sentenced a white former suburban Minneapolis public police officer to two years for fatally shooting a young Black man. Kimberly Potter says she accidentally fired her handgun instead of her taser while trying to arrest 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

This story contains an audio recording of the shooting. Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Kimberly Potter and fellow officer Anthony Luckey stopped Daunte Wright's Buick in the suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11. They soon found its registration had expired and noticed another minor violation - an air freshener dangling near the windshield. The officers then learned that Wright had a warrant for failing to appear in court on a firearms charge.

As Luckey tried to handcuff Wright, who was unarmed, he slipped back into the driver's seat. That's when Potter threatened to tase Wright, but the 26-year veteran officer grabbed her 9mm Glock handgun instead.


KIMBERLY POTTER: I'll tase you. Taser, Taser, Taser.

DAUNTE WRIGHT: Ow, you shot me.

POTTER: I - [expletive]. I just shot him.

SEPIC: In December, a jury convicted Potter of manslaughter. At today's sentencing, she apologized to Wright's family, including his mother, Katie.


POTTER: (Crying) Katie, I understand a mother's love, and I am sorry I broke your heart. My heart is broken for all of you.

SEPIC: Prosecutors asked Judge Regina Chu to give Potter a seven-year sentence, the presumptive term under state guidelines. But Chu said Potter never intended to use her gun and expressed remorse. She also noted that Potter faced a chaotic situation.


REGINA CHU: Officer Kimberly Potter was trying to do the right thing. Of all the jobs in public service, police officers have the most difficult one.

SEPIC: After the hearing, Katie Wright decried the sentence as far too lenient.


KATIE WRIGHT: This isn't OK. This is the problem with our justice system today.

SEPIC: Other critics noted that Mohamed Noor, a Black former Minneapolis police officer convicted of a lesser manslaughter charge for killing a white woman, is serving a sentence that's twice as long. Attorney Frank Aba-Onu, who's not involved in the case, says intent should not have been a factor.

FRANK ABA-ONU: The element of the crime didn't - it didn't require her to intend to grab her gun, right? It's kind of looking at your culpable negligence, you know, what you did that created an unreasonable risk of causing death or great bodily harm.

SEPIC: Under Minnesota law, Potter must serve two-thirds of her sentence in prison and the rest on supervised release. That means she could be freed next year, around the second anniversary of Daunte Wright's death.

For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF GARAGE A TROIS' "THE MACHINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic