Is it right to charge officer who killed Daunte Wright?


Fact Box

  • On Wednesday, April 14, 26-year Officer Kim Potter was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright. If found guilty, she could face jail time for 10 years and a $20,000 fine. 
  • Potter allegedly intended to fire a Taser, not a handgun, in the struggle. The officers had attempted to arrest Wright on an “outstanding warrant” before he tried to flee the scene. 
  • Her taser was bright yellow and holstered on her non-dominant left side as required by Brooklyn Center policy
  • The attorneys representing the Wright family stated, “This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force.” 
  • After the death of Wright, there have been consecutive nights of protests leading to over 70 arrests.

Morgan (Yes)

Any police officer who can’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun shouldn’t be a police officer. This mistake should have been even more difficult to make considering, according to CNBC, “Potter’s Taser is colored bright yellow, in contrast to her black Glock 9mm pistol.” This type of error costs people their lives, and if the mission of law enforcement is partly to keep people safe, shooting people when they mean to tase them is an unacceptable mistake to make. And one for which there should be consequences.

According to Laura Coates, Senior Legal Analyst for CNN, part of the second-degree manslaughter charge is culpable negligence. There has to be proof that the officer created an unreasonable risk, and Coates explains that part of this consideration comes from whether or not the amount of time the officer held the gun believing it was a taser before firing was reasonable. In the amount of time she held the weapon, she should have recognized that it was a gun, especially considering the lack of urgency in the situation.

According to Ed Obayashi, a California-based expert on the use of force by law enforcement, “with appropriate training, it should be difficult for officers to confuse a gun with a taser.” Officer Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, was trained and should be held to a high standard. If this is a mistake that happens frequently, then the right course of action would be to correct the root of the problem in law enforcement training. It’s cruel and unreasonable to, instead, expect the families of a wrongly murdered individual to accept the phrase “I didn’t mean to.”  

Bertie (No)

Kim Potter should not be charged in the death of Duante Wright. Without minimizing Wright's death, Potter herself is the scapegoat of reactionary 'justice' in the wake of ongoing racial unrest. It's clear from audio-visual on the bodycam footage she didn't intend to shoot Wright with a gun. Minnesota law doesn't require intent for 2nd-degree manslaughter. It does, however, require 'conscionable risk' resulting in someone's death. The fact of its application here is clearly a response to our country's racial climate and in direct correlation to the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. 

Were the timing different, Potter would likely not be charged. It's clear what started as a simple traffic stop for expired tags quickly escalated when the officers realized Wright had an outstanding warrant involving a firearm. As the training officer, Potter doubtless instantly had a myriad of thoughts in mind to not only conduct an arrest but to keep all parties (including a trainee officer) safe. Due to the inherent risk that police officers undertake every day--particularly now, particularly in Minnesota--charging Potter with “conscionable risk” when she clearly stated she intended to tase the victim is an overextension of the law. It's absolutely true police officers aren't above the law; it's equally valid in tense situations that they are afforded more interpretation within the law. 

Kim Potter made a mistake. One could argue she was negligent in that, as a 26-year veteran, she should have known where her gun and taser were located on her belt, but she did not consciously create a situation putting Wright's life in danger. Her life shouldn't be destroyed as a result of a truly regrettable error.

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