MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A judge has scheduled the trial for a former suburban Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright for December.
Former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who is white, had an omnibus hearing, also known as a pretrial hearing, on Monday afternoon in Hennepin County District Court. The purpose of such a hearing is to go over evidence and determine if there's probable cause for the case to proceed. A judge determined there was, and set the trial for Dec. 6.
In the virtual court hearing, Potter sat behind her attorney Earl Gray in his office. She spoke only to say, "Yes, your honor," in response to a question on having the hearing via Zoom.
In the five weeks since Wright's shooting, Potter has resigned from her job, been charged with manslaughter and appears to have left her home in a northern suburb because of threats. While the protests have ceased, her home remains surrounded by chain-link fencing, as does the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
The scene where Wright was shot and killed remains a shrine. And while the Wright family and their supporters have demanded that Potter be charged with murder, convicting Potter on the manslaughter charges she faces is not a given.
Intent isn't a necessary component of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota. The charge — which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison — can be applied in circumstances where a person is suspected of causing a death by "culpable negligence" that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances to cause a death.
"An accident doesn't mean gross negligence. An accident could be based on a mistake adding, so it's actually going to be fairly difficult to prove," attorney Joe Tamburino said.
The prosecution is moving for TV coverage of the trial but the defense is opposing it. An attorney for Wright's family, Jeffrey Storms, told WCCO they would like to know why Potter doesn't want the trial on TV. It's not clear when Judge Regina Chu will make a decision on that.
Wright, father of a young son, was killed April 11 after a traffic stop. The former Brooklyn Center police chief has said he believes Potter meant to use her Taser on Wright instead of her handgun. Body camera video shows her shouting "Taser!" multiple times before firing. The shooting ignited days of unrest. Wright's family members and protesters had wanted prosecutors to file murder charges.
The shooting happened amid the trial for Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder for pressing his knee against George Floyd's neck as the Black man said he couldn't breathe.
Police have said Wright was pulled over for expired tags, but they sought to arrest him after discovering an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and had a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
The criminal complaint noted that Potter holstered her handgun on the right side and her Taser on the left, both with their grips facing rearward. To remove the Taser — which is yellow and has a black grip — Potter would have to use her left hand, the complaint said.
Wright family attorney Ben Crump has disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun. Experts say cases of officers mistakenly firing their gun instead of a Taser are rare, usually less than once a year nationwide.
Brooklyn Center was moving toward firing Potter when she resigned shortly after the shooting. The city's police chief also resigned, after the City Council fired the city manager.
The city of Brooklyn Center adopted police reforms over the weekend that include having unarmed officers hand out traffic citations for minor offenses.
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