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Cop who shot Black man after traffic stop arrested, to face manslaughter charge

imageWorld2 minutes ago (Apr 14, 2021 03:51PM ET)

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(C) Reuters. Activists confront officers following a march for Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed by former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

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By Nick Pfosi and Gabriella Borter

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) -Minnesota authorities arrested the white police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a scuffle that followed a routine traffic stop and said they would charge her with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.

Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran who resigned from the Brooklyn Center police force on Tuesday, was booked into Hennepin County jail on Wednesday for fatally shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright three days ago, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement.

Potter, 48, was being held without bail, jail records showed. The Washington County Attorney’s office was expected to file the charge against her later on Wednesday.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput and Potter’s attorney, Earl Gray, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wright was shot on Sunday after being pulled over for what police said was an expired car registration. Officers discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest, and Officer Potter accidentally drew her pistol instead of her Taser during a struggle with Wright, who got back into his car, officials said.

In police video of the incident, Potter can be heard shouting, “Holy shit, I just shot him.”

In addition to Potter, Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon also tendered his resignation on Tuesday.

To convict Potter of second-degree manslaughter under Minnesota law, prosecutors must show that she was “culpably negligent” and took an “unreasonable risk” in her actions against Wright. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, representing Wright’s family, said in a statement on Wednesday that the charge was a step but fell short of fulfilling a greater need for police reform in the United States.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back. This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate, and unlawful use of force.

“Driving while Black continues to result in a death sentence,” Crump said.

TASER USE AN ISSUE

The shooting has renewed criticism of discretionary vehicle stops for minor traffic violations, in which police officers have legal leeway to act on racial bias, civil rights advocates say.

It has also drawn attention to potential issues with the use of Tasers by police officers, with some experts saying problems persist with training and the weapon’s design.

Potter is at least the third U.S. law enforcement officer to face charges after claiming they mistakenly killed someone with a gun when they meant to use a Taser.

The previous two are former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally shot a man named Oscar Grant in 2009 in Oakland, California, and reserve deputy Robert Bates, who killed Eric Harris in Oklahoma in 2015.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. Bates was sentenced to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter.

Wright was killed in Hennepin County, just miles from the Minneapolis courthouse where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman charged with murdering George Floyd last May, is taking place.

Potter’s case was referred to nearby Washington County under a year-old, five-county agreement to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest in police use-of-deadly-force cases.

Floyd, 46, who died in handcuffs with his neck pinned to the street under Chauvin’s knee, became the face of protests against racism and police brutality that swept the United States last year.

Protesters assembled outside Brooklyn Center’s police headquarters for a third night on Tuesday, some throwing bottles and other projectiles over a fence around the building. Officers fired teargas, nonlethal rounds and flash-bang rounds, to disperse the crowd.

Cop who shot Black man after traffic stop arrested, to face manslaughter charge