MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser was convicted of manslaughter Thursday in the death of Daunte Wright, prompting tears from the young Black man’s parents and a jubilant celebration by supporters outside the courthouse who chanted “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”
The mostly white jury deliberated for about 27 hours over four days before finding former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. Potter, 49, faces about seven years in prison under the state’s sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer term.
Judge Regina Chu ordered Potter taken into custody and held without bail pending sentencing on Feb. 18. Potter had been free on $100,000 bond posted the day last April that she was charged, which was three days after she killed Wright and a day after she quit the police force.
As she was led away in handcuffs, a Potter family member in the courtroom shouted “Love you, Kim!” Potter’s attorneys left the courthouse without commenting and didn’t immediately respond to phone messages or emails.
It was the second high-profile conviction of a police officer won this year by a team led by Attorney General Keith Ellison, including some of the same attorneys who helped convict Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death in the very same courtroom just eight months earlier.
Wright was killed while that trial was happening not far away, and it set off a wave of angry protests outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, where demonstrators demanding “Justice for Daunte” clashed with officers in riot gear for several nights.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, dozens of people who had gathered erupted in cheers, hugs and tears of joy as the verdicts were read. A New Orleans-style jazz band played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Two men jumped up and down holding one another’s shoulders, and then other people began jumping up and down and chanting “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”
They chanted “Say his name! Daunte Wright!” Some held yellow signs that said “guilty” in large block letters.
Potter, who testified that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody,” looked down without any visible reaction when the verdicts were read. As Chu thanked the jury, Potter made the sign of the cross.
Potter’s attorneys argued that she should be allowed to remain free until she’s sentenced, saying she wasn’t going to commit another crime or go anywhere.
“It is the Christmas holiday season,” Potter attorney Paul Engh argued. “She’s a devoted Catholic, no less, and there is no point to incarcerate her at this point in time.”
Chu rejected their arguments, though, saying she “cannot treat this case any differently than any other case.”
Though Potter showed no visible emotion in court as the verdicts were read, she was photographed smiling in a mug shot taken later as she was processed at a women’s prison near Minneapolis.
After Potter was led from the courtroom, prosecutor Erin Eldridge exchanged a long hug with a tearful Katie Bryant, Wright’s mother and a frequent presence at the trial, and with Wright’s father. Ellison also exchanged hugs with the parents.
Outside the courthouse afterward, Ellison said the verdict brought a measure of accountability for Potter but fell short of justice.
“Justice would be restoring Daunte to life and making the Wright family whole again,” Ellison said. “Justice is beyond the reach that we have in this life for Daunte. But accountability is an important step, a critical necessary step on the road to justice for us all.”