MINEAPOLIS – Kim Potter, a former Minneapolis suburban police officer who said she confused a pistol with a taser when she fatally shot Down Wright, was sentenced on Friday to two years in prison. Wright’s family condemned the sentence as too lenient and accused the judge of treating the white officer more carefully than the black victim.
Potter was convicted in December of the unintentional murder of first and second degree in the April 11 murder of Wright, a 20-year-old black motorist. She was only sentenced on a more serious charge under state law.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said after the sentencing that Potter “killed my son”, adding: “Today, the justice system killed him again.” She also accused the judge of being caught in the “white woman’s tears” after Potter cried during her statement before sentencing.
Speaking before the verdict, the weeping Wright said that she could never forgive Potter and that she would call her only a “defendant” because Potter called his son a “driver” only in court.
“She never said his name. And for that I will never be able to forgive you. And I will never be able to forgive you for stealing from us, ”said Wright, who also sometimes uses the name Bryant.
“Donte Demetrius Wright, I will continue to fight in your name until he is behind the wheel, until Black is no longer sentenced to death,” she said.
Potter apologized to Wright’s family and then addressed directly to his mother, “Katie, I understand my mother’s love. I’m sorry I broke your heart … my heart is broken and devastated for all of you. “
The judge, who handed down a sentence below state recommendations, called it “one of the saddest cases I’ve had in 20 years as a defendant.” Judge Regina Chu said she had received “hundreds and hundreds” of letters in support of Potter. “On the one hand, a young man was killed, and on the other, a respected 26-year-old police veteran made a tragic mistake by pulling out a gun instead of a taser.”
Chu said the lesser sentence was justified because Potter was “doing his job and doing his job trying to legally arrest Downt Wright,” and Potter was trying to protect another officer who could be delayed and seriously injured if Wright left.
The judge said Potter would serve the standard two-thirds of his sentence, or 16 months in prison, and the rest – parole. She has earned the credit for 58 days that she has been in the state women’s prison in Shakapi since the conviction.
Wright was killed after Brooklyn Center staff stopped him for having his license expired and an air freshener hung on his rearview mirror. Civil rights activists complain that laws banning the hanging of objects on rear-view mirrors have been used as a reason to stop black motorists.
The shooting, when Derek Shaven was tried in Minneapolis on charges of murdering George Floyd, sparked several days of tear gas demonstrations near the Brooklyn Police Department and clashes between protesters and police.
Potter and Shaven were convicted in the same courtroom.
Family lawyer Wright Ben Crump said the family was stunned by the verdict, saying they did not understand why such attention was given to a white officer in the murder of a young black man when black officer Mohamed Noor was given a longer term in 2017 for murder white woman Justin Ruszczyk Damond.
“What we see today is a legal system in black and white.”
But the judge said the case was not the same as in other high-profile police killings.
“This is not a police officer found guilty of murder for using his knee to press a man for 9 1/2 minutes when he was short of breath. This is not a police officer found guilty of manslaughter for deliberately snatching a firearm and shooting at his partner, as well as killing an unarmed woman who approached his squad, “Chu said, referring to Chauvin and Nura. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake. “
For those with no criminal history, such as Potter, state recommendations for first-degree manslaughter range from just over six years to about 8 and a half years in prison, with an estimated sentence of just over seven years.
Prosecutors initially argued that aggravating factors justified the sentence above the recommended range, saying Potter had abused her authority as an officer and that her actions posed a danger to others more than usual. But on Friday, prosecutor Matt Frank said the alleged verdict was correct.
“His life mattered, and that life was taken away,” Frank said before sentencing. “His name is Downt Wright. We have to say his name. He was not just a driver. He was a living man. Life. “
Defense attorney Paul Eng asked for a sentence lower than the guidelines, including only a suspended sentence, claiming that Wright was the aggressor. He said the testimony of other officers at the scene showed it was a dangerous situation because Wright was trying to pass and Potter had the right to defend other officers.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Allison, whose office conducted the case, said he accepted the verdict and urged others to do the same.
People should remember Downt Wright and “know that no number of years in prison can cover the wonders of this young man’s life,” Allison said in a statement.
But, he said, the verdict does not overturn “the veracity of the jury’s verdict.”
Eng told the judge that Wright’s death was “beyond tragic for all participants.” But he added: “It was an unintentional crime. It was an accident. It was a mistake. “
Eng said that if Potter gets a suspended sentence, she will be ready to meet with Wright’s family and talk to police about the confusion with Taser, as suggested by prosecutors.
Eng also picked up a box displaying what he said was among Potter’s “thousands” of letters and cards.
“People took the time to write to her,” Eng said. – This is unheard of for the defendant. I dare say that no one in this room has ever seen anything like it. “
Witnesses at Potter’s trial testified that officers learned he had an unfulfilled warrant for charges of possession of a weapon, and they tried to arrest him when he retired. The video shows Potter shouting several times that she was going to use her stun gun on Wright, but she held a gun in her hand and shot him in the chest.
Wright’s father and brothers and sisters also went to court to tell about their loss.
Wright’s son’s mother, China Whitaker, said Friday that Wright will never be able to play ball with his son or see him go to school.
“My son doesn’t need to wear his father’s shirt, rest in peace,” Whitaker said.
The story was corrected to show Potter was threatened with a conviction for first-degree manslaughter, not first-degree murder.
Weber contributed from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press writer Mohamed Ibrahim has contributed to Minneapolis.
Find full coverage of the Dow Wright AP case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright
Kim Potter sentenced to 2 years in death by Downt Wright :: WRAL.com
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