Advocates celebrate 'small win for police accountability' after Kim Potter is found guilty

Advocates celebrate 'small win for police accountability' after Kim Potter is found guilty

After four days of deliberation, a Hennepin County, Minnesota jury on Thursday found former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, an unarmed 20-year-old Black father, during an April 11 traffic stop.

"Kim Potter was found GUILTY," Black Lives Matter tweeted following the verdict. "May the spirit of justice in the name of Daunte Wright lead us into the new year."

The ACLU tweeted: "This verdict is still not justice. True justice doesn't come one verdict at a time. Real justice means that these situations do not happen in the first place."

Wright family attorneys Benjamin Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms, released the following statement regarding the verdict:

The family of Daunte Wright is relieved that the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death of their son, brother, father, and friend. From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training, and protocols.
If we are ever going to restore the confidence of Black and marginalized Americans in law enforcement, we need to have accountability and a commitment to listening and to creating meaningful change. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that Kim Potter receives the strongest and most just sentence possible. It is also imperative that we focus on the conduct of Brooklyn Center and pinpoint its systemic failures that contributed to Daunte's unlawful death.

Potter unsuccessfully argued that she meant to use her Taser, and not her Glock semi-automatic pistol, on Wright during what she described as a "chaotic" encounter. The former 26-year veteran officer could face up to 15 years behind bars and as much as a $30,000 fine. However, CNN reports that since she has no criminal history, state sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence in the six-to-8.5-year range.

Potter's sentencing is scheduled for February 22. The presiding judge in the case, Regina Chu, ordered Potter to be immediately jailed.

Potter's trial took place in the same Minneapolis courthouse where former city police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in April of murdering George Floyd last year.

"Kimberly Potter's actions were not accidental and it certainly was not an anomaly," Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice and democracy campaigns at Color Of Change, said in a statement. "The murder of Daunte Wright, as well as the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless other Black people at the hands of police, is indicative of an entire policing system predicated on anti-Black violence."

"It's a system propped up not only by local police departments, but also by dangerous police unions—like the Brooklyn Center police union, of which Potter was president—and police foundations that perpetuate this culture of violence," he added. "Aggressive, heavy-handed policing only makes our communities less safe. And while cases like this help to hold individual officers responsible for unconscionable crimes, they're far from the systemic solutions we ultimately need in order to deliver justice."

NAACP president Derrick Johnson called the verdict "a small victory in the fight for peace in Minnesota and across our country."

"We are pleased that the jury found Kim Potter guilty of manslaughter, but this verdict does not correct the wrongful killing of Daunte Wright," he said in a statement. "Daunte Wright, a father to an infant son, died unjustly at the hands of the police and left behind his family and an entire community of people who love him."

"We will continue to demand justice," Johnson vowed, "whether it be from carelessness and negligence, or a blatant modern-day lynching."

Margaret Huang, CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that "the murder of Daunte Wright by a white officer who swore to protect and serve her community is yet another example of violent police interactions with Black citizens. After being pulled over for a minor traffic infraction in Minneapolis—just 11 miles away from where George Floyd succumbed at the knee of another officer—Daunte Wright was shot and killed by former police officer Kim Potter. "

"We must not forget about the countless other Black and brown people who have been shot or killed by police officers in the U.S., often without the benefit of video evidence or sympathetic juries such as those in Kim Potter's trial," she continued. "In the United States, Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than are white men. Due to the history of human rights violations by law enforcement who frequently use force—especially lethal force—against individuals of color, we must undertake significant reforms to stop seeing these tragedies unfold."

"Our criminal and legal systems are long overdue for a transformation to root out the inherent racism that has long plagued our country," Huang added. "We challenge lawmakers at both the federal and state levels to hold officers accountable for police violence."

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