While protesters gathered for the fourth night in a row in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center to protest the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, there was a palpable easing of tension, according to law enforcement officials, hours after a former police officer was arrested and charged in his death.
The former officer, Kim Potter, will make her first appearance in court Thursday.
“My message to all who are demanding justice for (Daunte Wright) and for his family is this: Your voices have been heard, now the eyes of the world are watching Brooklyn Center and I urge you to protest peacefully and without violence,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said Wednesday.
Potter was arrested Wednesday and charged with second degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Wright. Officers had stopped Wright’s car Sunday, and body camera footage showed Potter drawing her weapon as she shouted “Taser” and firing at Wright.
Potter, who resigned as a Brooklyn Center police officer this week, posted bail and was released from custody, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s official website. CNN has reached out to Potter’s attorney, Earl Gray, for comment.
Wright’s family had called for charges against the officer and, as the trial of a former officer in the death of George Floyd took place just ten miles away, hundreds have gathered for four consecutive days to protest Wright’s death.
However, after three nights of sometimes violent exchanges between protesters and law enforcement officers, the tension appeared to have eased by Wednesday night.
“We are thankful tonight, the tension and anxiety and the stress seemed to be lowered,” Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol Matt Langer said at a late-night news conference.
There were “about 24 arrests,” he said, which was significantly lower than the previous nights.
Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said the majority of the people being arrested in Brooklyn Center were not residents of the city.
And for the second night in a row, there were no reports of looting or fires set in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said.
Officer faces up to 10 years in prison
In Minnesota, second-degree manslaughter applies when authorities allege a person causes someone’s death by “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.”
Someone convicted of this charge would face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
Police Chief Tim Gannon, who resigned on Tuesday, had said Wright’s death appeared to be the result of Potter mistaking her gun for her Taser as Wright resisted arrest.
However, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension examined Potter’s duty belt and found her handgun is holstered on the right side of her belt, while the Taser is on the left side, according to a news release from Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s office.
Citing a criminal complaint, the release said the Taser is yellow with a black grip and is set in a straight-draw position, “meaning Potter would have to use her left hand to pull the Taser out of its holster.”
Though Potter has submitted a resignation letter, Mayor Elliott said Tuesday he has not accepted it, adding “we’re doing our internal process to make sure that we are being accountable to the steps that we need to take.” Earlier, he told CBS he thought Potter should be fired.
Potter is still entitled to benefits following her resignation, though it is not clear what those benefits are, acting City Manager Reggie Edwards said.
Orput is the prosecutor in Washington County, which is near Hennepin County, the location of Brooklyn Center. The case was given to Washington County prosecutors to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest in Hennepin County, officials have said.
Reacting to the manslaughter charge, one of the Wright family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump, released a statement saying “while we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back.”
“This (shooting) was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force,” Crump’s statement reads.
What the body cameras showed
Sunday’s killing of Wright is at least the third high-profile death of a Black man during a police encounter in the Minneapolis area in the past five years, after the shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights in 2016 and the death of George Floyd last year. Minneapolis police also were under scrutiny when an officer was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter for the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, a White woman.
Body camera footage of the incident was released Monday, the day after Wright’s death. Wright was pulled over Sunday by police, who learned that he had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge, according to the news release from Orput’s office.
The footage shows Wright standing outside his vehicle with his arms behind his back and an officer directly behind him, trying to handcuff him. An officer tells Wright “don’t,” before Wright twists away and gets back into the driver’s seat of the car.
Orput’s office said Potter “pulled her Glock 9mm handgun with her right hand and pointed it at Wright.”
The officer whose camera footage was released is heard warning the man she’s going to use her Taser on him, before repeatedly shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” It’s at this point that Orput’s office says Potter “pulled the trigger on her handgun” and fired one round into the left side of Wright.
“Wright immediately said, “ah, he shot me,” and the car sped away for a short distance before crashing into another vehicle and stopping,” the release said.
Then, the officer is heard screaming, “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”
An ambulance was called and Wright was pronounced dead at the scene, Orput’s release states.
Gannon said the portion of body-worn camera footage released Monday led him to believe the shooting was accidental and that the officer’s actions before the shooting were consistent with the department’s training on Tasers.