The case against a white, former police officer who was charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center will proceed with a trial starting as early as December, a judge ruled Monday.
Kim Potter, a decorated, 26-year police veteran, resigned days after shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright last month. The tragedy occurred a few miles from where George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin less than a year earlier, and it took place days before Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The shooting touched off days of angry protests and prompted sweeping policing changes in the community.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who resigned the same day Potter did, called Wright’s shooting “accidental” and said Potter apparently meant to fire her Taser.
Body camera video shows another officer begin to arrest Wright on a warrant for his failure to appear in court on unrelated charges. Potter’s body camera shows Wright flee to his car as Potter pulls out her handgun and yells, “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Potter fires her weapon and says “Holy (expletive)! I shot him.”
Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s death. On Monday, she appeared with her attorney, Early Gray, in court via Zoom for a procedural hearing to determine whether there was cause for the case to proceed.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu ruled the case would proceed and said the trial could begin as early as Dec. 6, though prosecutors noted it is early in the case and that date might need to change.
“I think it’s to the benefit of everyone to try to expedite this case and try to come to a resolution or trial as quickly as reasonably possible,” Chu said, noting a series of deadlines for discovery and other motions.
Chu started the hearing by acknowledging Wright’s family and friends were attending via videoconference and said she wanted to “extend my condolences.”
The hearing concluded with Imran Ali, one of the prosecutors, noting he filed a motion to allow visual and audio coverage of the high-profile trial – a request that was immediately objected to by Potter’s attorney.
Hennepin County allowed cameras in the courtroom for proceedings surrounding the Chauvin case. But both parties typically must agree for a judge to allow cameras and recordings, according to KARE 11, the local NBC affiliate.
Meanwhile, the case and others like it have already had a ripple effect on the community. Brooklyn Center’s City Council on Saturday approved a series of changes. Unarmed civilians will enforce nonmoving traffic violations, and arrests on low-level offenses will be dropped in favor of citations.
A new Community Response Department will respond to all incidents in which a city resident has a medical, mental health, disability-related, or other behavioral or social need. The department will include trained medical and mental health professionals, social workers, or other expert staff and volunteers. A dispatch system will route “appropriate calls to the Community Response Department and not to the Police Department.”
“It is time for real, structural, transformative change,” Mayor Mike Elliott, the city’s first Black mayor, said. “We have the ability to start creating that change now. And with this resolution, we are doing just that.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota lauded the changes as a “model for our state and nation.”
“It’s the most comprehensive package of transformational measures in the country,” the group said in a statement.
Potter said in a resignation letter that she had “loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community.”
Potter, a union leader and instructor, was a decorated officer. She received a chief’s commendation in 2007 for her handling of a “suicidal homicidal suspect” and his 2-year-old daughter. A copy of the commendation said: “Your actions assisted in the safe release of the child and the apprehension of the suspect without incident.”
Other commendations were for recovering a company’s stolen computer in 2008; helping recover a child who was the subject of an Amber Alert in 2006; helping locate and arrest two bail-jumpers from Mississippi in 2006; and tracking down suspects in a home invasion robbery in 1998.
One note of praise for Potter in 2006 was based mainly on a citizen who called the department that year, praising her and three other officers for “how professionally they conducted themselves during a high-risk stop and not like what he sees on the T.V. show COPS,” according to the chief’s notes of the call.
But some Brooklyn Center residents say her decision to pull Wright over was another example of law enforcement targeting Black men for traffic violations. Marquita Butler, a member of the City Council, said numerous Black men, including her own brother, complained to her that police had racially profiled them.
Elliott said he wants to establish a closer connection between the community and the police. He pointed out that among the city’s roughly 50 police officers, “very few” are people of color and none live in Brooklyn Center.
“I am grateful to our community who showed up, spoke out, and advocated for what we need to ensure everyone in Brooklyn Center feels safe,” Elliott said.
Contributing: Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press