Former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer Kim Potter was sentenced to two years in prison for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright on April 11, 2021. The sentence is a significant departure from the seven years the state was seeking in the case and far below the 15 year maximum sentence Potter faced.
Back in December, Potter was convicted of first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Wright.
The hearing began with state prosecutors requesting a sentence of a minimum of seven years. While making a case for a lower sentence, Potter’s lawyer, Paul Engh, addressed concerns surrounding Potter’s prison’s intake photo. In the photo that emerged following the December conviction, Potter was seen smiling. Engh declared the smile was at the request of the prison, and not to be disrespectful.
He also pushed for probation over prison time, arguing that prison time would be more harmful. Engh stated Potter had been in isolation in prison for the last two months because prison officials feared she’d be attacked.
He noted that most people in isolation have suffered “a decline in mental & physical health” and “If you send her to prison, you will harm her.”
He also argued that Potter was mostly an exemplary officer for the 26 years on the force, citing letters of support from those who knew her professionally. Engh also shared three boxes of letters of support sent to Potter following the conviction.
Next, came impact statements from Wright’s parents, two siblings, and the mother of his child.
Diamond Wright, a younger sister, tearfully reiterated how disappointed the family is in the police department that was supposed to protect and serve the community. Diamond also mentioned how she and Daunte discussed safety concerns after George Floyd’s death, stating “Maybe we had enough white in us for us not to be a threat to the police. We were wrong. We have repeatedly seen that one hint of Black in our skin makes us a target.”
Finally, the mother of Wright’s only child, Chyna Whitaker, told the court that she was now a single parent by force and not by choice. She expressed hurt in the fact that Wright would never have a chance to play ball with his son, or see him go to school. She described her son’s personal loss as “losing his best friend.” Whitaker also mentioned her own trauma following that fateful day, as she was also present during the shooting.
“I now suffer from severe PTSD; whenever I’m pulled over, I have extreme anxiety, afraid of making a mistake and something ending up going wrong,” she said, crying. “I can’t watch any movies or videos that have to do with police brutality because it reminds me of Daunte being killed.”
Following the family’s impact statements, Potter addressed the Wright family. Through wimpers, she apologized profusely, “I pray for Daunte and all of you many, many times a day. He is not more than one thought away from my heart and I have no right for that, for him to be in my heart,” she continued. “And I do pray that one day, you can find forgiveness, only because hatred is so destructive to all of us. And that I pray peace will always be with you and your family.”
After hearing impact statements, Judge Regina Chu fought back tears as she ruled that Potter made a “tragic mistake,” that was no way comparable to other murders by police officers. Judge Chu referred to the Derek Chauvin case stating, “This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for nine and half minutes as he gasps for air.”
Judge Chu went on, “Officer Potter never intended to use her firearm. She mistakenly drew her firearm at all times intending to use her Taser,” she said.
Potter is only required to serve two-thirds of that time, or 16 months, of her sentence in prison. The 58 days of time served will also be added to the total sentencing. And, with good behavior, she will be eligible for supervised release for the other third.
Per Judge Chu’s ruling, there will also be a fine of $1,000 and a surcharge of $78 to be taken out of prison wages or due within 180 days. She noted that Potter has the right to appeal the conviction and sentence. The maximum fine for first-degree manslaughter is $30,000 and for second-degree manslaughter, a $20,000 fine.
The Wright family shared their disappointment in the outcome outside of the courthouse. Wright’s mother, Katie Wright told press cameras, “Kim Potter murdered my son, and he died April 11. Today, the justice system murdered him all over again.”
She continued, “Pouring my heart out in my victim impact statement that took so long to write … to not get a response out of the judge at all, but then when it came down to … sentencing Kim Potter, [the judge] broke down in tears. This isn’t okay, this is the problem with our justice system today: white women’s tears trump justice.”
Daunte Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, shared in the hurt, “It seemed to me that nobody even cared,” he said. “The court was so tied up into [Potter’s] feelings and what … was going with her, that they forgot about my son being killed.”