BY ED FELIEN
Daunte Wright was pulled over in Brooklyn Center while driving his parent’s car for driving with expired license tabs.
The officer in charge, Kim Potter, was a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Park Police Department and former head of the police officer’s union. She was training new recruits on correct procedure. Normally, someone with expired tabs would get a warning and told to renew the plates and put on the stickers. But Potter ran a check on Wright’s driver’s license and discovered there was an outstanding arrest warrant out for him for violation of his probation. He had been arrested in 2019 for attempted armed robbery.
District Court documents filed in Hennepin County on 12/4/2019 say:
“Statement of Probable Cause:
“On 12/1/2019, Osseo Police responded to an apartment on the 600 block of North Oaks Drive in Osseo, Hennepin County for a report of an assault and robbery. Police spoke with the identified adult female victim. Victim reported that she was at the above-listed residence with her female roommate the night before and two males came over to party. One male was identified as Emajay Maurice Driver (DOB: 1/11/2001) who was an acquaintance from high school. The other male was unknown to victim prior to that night, and he was later identified as Daunte Demetrius Wright (DOB: 10/27/2000). At approximately 2:30 am, victim and witness told the two defendants to get a ride home, but the defendants were unable to find a ride. Victim and witness allowed the defendants to stay over and sleep on the floor. In the morning, witness left for a short time to get $820 cash in order to pay victim for rent. Witness returned and gave the $820 to victim, then witness left again for work. The defendants found someone to pick them up. While they were waiting for their ride to show up, victim said that Wright made a comment that he didn’t have to work today and told Driver they should ‘Hit some stains.’ Victim understood ‘stain’ as slang for robbing somebody. Victim thought Wright was just joking around. Wright told Driver and victim he thought their ride was there and said he would be right back and was going to check. Wright left the apartment and came back about 5 minutes later and said their ride was here. Victim said she was going to leave at the same time as the defendants. The three of them were walking to the door to exit the apartment and Wright turned around and blocked the door preventing victim from leaving. Wright then pulled a black handgun with silver trim out from either his right waistband or his right coat pocket and pointed it at the victim and demanded the rent money. Victim said, ‘Are you serious?’ Wright replied, ‘Give me the fucking money. I know you have it.’ Victim then asked him if he was serious and he said, ‘I’m not playing around.’ The $820 cash was tucked into victim’s bra and Wright placed his hand around victim’s neck and choked her while trying to pull the cash out from under her bra. Victim was able to get loose from Wright and started to kneel down and scream. Victim heard Driver tell her to give the money to Wright. Wright started yelling at victim and told her to stop screaming. Victim was yelling at them to get out of her apartment because she said the cops are close. Wright then told her that he would shoot her and said, ‘Give me the money and we will leave. Give me the money and we will go.’ Wright then tried to choke victim a second time and tried to take her money. Driver was telling her to give Wright the money. Driver then said, ‘Let’s go,’ and the two defendants left and got into a white Cadillac and left the scene. Afterwards, victim found that the cash was still in her bra. Victim later identified both Wright and Driver via photo line-ups.”
Wright had been released on $100,000 bail on the condition that he not have contact with the victim and not possess a handgun. But he was not meeting with his probation officer, and they believed he was in possession of a handgun, so his probation was revoked. A warrant was issued that he be arrested and returned to custody to await trial.
Officer Potter must have thought she had struck gold. Here was the perfect moment to teach the new recruits how to arrest a suspect. She yelled from her squad car, “He’s got a warrant.” The new recruit fumbled with the handcuffs. Wright broke away, got back in his car. Potter came up and shouted to him, “I’ll tase you. Taser!” But she was holding her service revolver. Wright started to drive away. Potter shot him once in the chest. After she shot him, she said, “Holy shit. I shot him.” Only then did she apparently realize she was holding her revolver and not her taser. It is not a common mistake, but it has happened to officers before.
The next day, the mayor of Brooklyn Center said she should be fired. She resigned.
She faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, Minnesota Statute 609.205: “A person who causes the death of another by the person’s culpable negligence may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.”
Just as a surgeon must be held accountable for malpractice, so a 26-year veteran law enforcement professional must be held accountable for a death that results from their bad judgment.
Daunte Wright was poor and hungry and desperate and Black. And in a society that measures success in terms of money and power, he was an outcast. Television violence had taught him a gun was an easy ticket out. He could have shot the woman and taken the money. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. And that spark of humanity helps us forgive Daunte Wright, just as we must now try to find the love and understanding to forgive Officer Kim Potter.