Minnesota prosecutors have upgraded the charges against Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer involved in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, an allegedly violent firearms suspect, when he tried to flee a traffic stop in April.
Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office was adding a first-degree manslaughter charge against Potter, who will still face the original second-degree manslaughter charge.
Ellison’s office took over the case from the Washington County attorney in May before conducting its own investigation and making the new charging decision.
Ellison’s office said that its Thursday announcement “constitutes the entirety of the Attorney General’s Office’s public comment” on the new charge.
Video from Potter’s bodycam showed Wright, 20, surrounded by police officers, one of whom had pulled his hands behind his back. Wright broke free from the grip and jumped into the driver’s seat of his car, then shifted it into gear.
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“Taser! Taser” Potter yells in the video, drawing her handgun instead and firing a single shot into Wright from just a few inches away.
The car drove off, then crashed. Wright died and a passenger was injured.
Investigators initially called the shooting an accident and said Potter meant to reach for her Taser and not the gun. But she later resigned from the department and was originally charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Lawyers for Wright’s family have argued that an experienced officer like Potter should have been able to tell the difference between a pistol and a Taser before firing.
Activists and some analysts had predicted that when the charges were upgraded, they would include third-degree murder, as happened to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
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Instead, however, Ellison’s office upgraded the charges to first-degree manslaughter on Thursday, alleging that Potter recklessly handled her handgun.
Before Wright’s death, the man had been charged with robbery for allegedly pointing a gun at a woman and demanding money.
Wright later violated the terms of his probation in the robbery case and was accused of waving a black handgun near a Minneapolis intersection before ditching it and fleeing on foot, eluding responding officers. When Potter and other officers pulled him over in April, they found he had a warrant connected with that incident and attempted to arrest him.
At least two other alleged shooting victims have filed civil lawsuits against Wright’s estate.
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One of them, Caleb Livingston, has been in a “vegetative state” since Wright allegedly shot him in the head in 2019, according to one lawsuit. The other alleged victim, a former classmate named Joshua Hodges, has alleged that Wright and an accomplice shot him in the leg and stole his car just weeks before the Potter incident.
The legal team for Wright’s family, led by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, described the posthumous civil complaints as “character assassination.”
Livingston’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help out with his medical costs.