If you’re not fully informed about the Kim Potter story, it’s a real-life tragedy. It is both a tragedy for the former Minnesota police officer, and Daunte Wright, the person Potter accidentally shot. The ensuing investigations and criminal trial have been agonizing for both families.
However, by virtually every account, police officer Potter did not intend to kill anyone. What happened in April 2021 was horrible. But again, it was an accident. Potter was a police union president and a veteran officer who was a member of the law enforcement honor guard.
She served her community with dignity. Everything fell apart for her on that fateful April day. Potter stopped Wright’s car at around 2:00 pm. Wright had a warrant for his arrest. When he tried to reenter his vehicle and drive away, Wright was tragically shot.
However, it was not a normal shooting of a fleeing suspect. Potter, who shot Wright, screamed at him multiple times. “I’ll tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” Potter shouted. But she wasn’t holding her taser. Potter had inadvertently pulled her firearm.
A routine traffic stop and service of a warrant turned deadly. Wright died from the gunshot. Potter was grief-stricken. After watching the body-camera footage, even her police chief at the time, Tim Gannon, believes Potter thought she held her taser.
Soon after, both Potter and Gannon resigned. About a month after the tragic shooting, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office would be prosecuting Potter. Opening statements were made in early December 2021.
Ultimately, a Minneapolis jury found Potter guilty on all charges. When her original verdict was announced, Potter sat expressionless. The former decorated police officer was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter, the most serious of the charges.
On Friday, February 18, 2022, Potter discovered her fate for accidentally taking the life of another human being. Many, including the mother of Daunte Wright’s child, were demanding an unnaturally harsh maximum sentence. They seemed to want vengeance, not fair justice.
Wright’s sister, despite video evidence to the contrary, insisted that Potter somehow killed Wright on purpose. The body-cam footage showed a completely different story. It was obvious to anyone watching that this was a tragic shooting, but it was also an accident.
Just before the noon recess, the judge handed down sentencing. Judge Regina Chu saw the same video evidence that everyone else saw. She agreed that while tragic, Potter never intended to kill anyone. Judge Chu seemed to adjudicate a sentence that reflected the crime.
She sentenced Potter to 24 months in prison. Two-thirds of this sentence must be served in confinement. After that, the remaining one-third of the sentence will be served on supervised probation. Potter will also receive 58 days of credit for time served.
The judge also attached a $1,000 fine. Judge Chu explained the reasoning behind her sentence. She said, “I recognize there will be those who disagree with the sentence that I granted a significant downward departure, does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright’s life.”
The judge stressed that important final point, “His life mattered.” Daunte Wright’s life did matter. It was lost as the result of a horrible accident. However, taking years from another life will not bring Daunte Wright back. Judge Regina Chu exercised both common sense and compassion.
Nothing would have been gained by locking Kim Potter away for years. She is not a criminal. Kim Potter is a noble public servant who made a horrible mistake. While it cannot make up for a tragic loss, Potter’s sentence is justice.
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