Stiffest charge stands for ex-cop who killed Daunte Wright

·2 min read
FILE - This undated file booking photo provided by the Hennepin County, Minn., Sheriff shows Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer. Potter, a former suburban Minneapolis police officer who has said she meant to use a Taser instead of a handgun when she shot and killed Daunte Wright in April is laying out her potential defenses ahead of her November 2021 trial. (Hennepin County Sheriff via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge has denied a defense request to dismiss the most serious charge against a former suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she meant to use a Taser instead of a handgun when she fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright.

Former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter will stand trial in Hennepin County on first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of Wright, who was shot after being stopped April 11 for a traffic violation.

Potter, who is white, was initially charged with second-degree manslaughter, which requires a finding that she acted with “culpable negligence” in Wright's death.

Prosecutors later added a first-degree manslaughter count against Potter, alleging she recklessly handled a firearm and endangered Wright’s safety when death or great bodily harm was reasonably foreseeable.

In allowing the first-degree manslaughter charge, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu said Wednesday that she only had to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and make a finding of “probable cause,” meaning it was more probable than not that a crime was committed.

She noted the state will have a much higher burden of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt during a trial, the Star Tribune reported.

For a conviction on the first-degree charge, a jury would have to find that Potter was aware of the risk of killing Wright and “made a conscious decision to act without regard” to the risk, Chu wrote.

Potter was training officer Anthony Luckey when he stopped Wright for an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and expired tabs, according to officials. When Luckey ran a records check, he found there was an active arrest warrant for a weapons violation against Wright.

According to body camera video, Luckey tried to arrest Wright and put handcuffs on him, but Wright spun away and got back in the car. Within seconds, Potter warned Wright that she was going to use her stun gun. Potter drew her service weapon instead, however, and fired a single shot.

Realizing her mistake, Potter became hysterical and said she had grabbed the wrong weapon.

On evidentiary matters, Chu ruled that Wright’s criminal record and allegations, including that he shot someone in the head, was a member of a street gang, assaulted and robbed a man in March and was subject to restraining orders, may only be admissible if Potter was aware of Wright's prior conduct.