Former Officer Potter Sentenced to 2 Years in Daunte Wright’s Death
Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter received a two-year sentence Friday for the April 11 traffic stop death of Daunte Wright. It was a downward departure from state sentencing guidelines. Potter was convicted in December of both first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced Friday for only the most serious charge of first-degree manslaughter.
“I pray for you and Daunte many, many times a day,” Potter told the court speaking directly to Daunte Wright’s family. “He is not more than one thought away from my heart and I have no right for him to be in my heart.”
Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu, who issued the sentence, called it “one of the saddest cases I’ve had on my 20 years on the bench.”
Under Chu’s sentence:
Potter will spend 16 months in prison and the rest on supervisory release. She will be credited for 58 days served for her time served at the state’s women’s prison in Shakopee. Potter was also fined $1,000 and ordered not to possess any firearms in the future. Chu noted that Potter does have the right to appeal her sentence.
“I recognize there will be those who disagree with the sentence. That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright’s life,” said Chu. “His life mattered.”
‘I will never be able to forgive you’
Daunte Wright’s family provided impact statements during Friday’s sentencing hearing. Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother, said she had many sleepless nights thinking about what to say. Her son was 20 years old when he was killed.
“Your honor, I hope the defendant is listening as I speak loud and clear today. And yes, I refer to her as defendant. Because I will not give her the respect of calling her by her name. She referred to Daunte over and over again as the driver, as if killing him wasn’t enough to dehumanize him. She never once said his name. And for that I will never be able to forgive you,” said Katie Wright.
Arbuey Wright, Daunte’s father, also spoke.
“Daunte meant the world to me. He was my son,” said Arbuey Wright. He mentioned that his son was named after Daunte Culpepper, the former Vikings quarterback. Daunte was the couple’s first child together.
“Nothing will ever be the same. Everything we do as a family ends in tears.”
Arbuey and Katie Wright share a total of seven children, including some from previous relationships.
Damik Bryant, the oldest child of Katie’s also spoke.
“I lost not only my best friend, but my baby brother,” he said.
Diamond Wright, Daunte’s sister, shared that Daunte “could light up a whole stadium with his smile and laugh.”
Daunte Wright was the father of one child, Daunte Wright Jr., who is now 2. The boy’s mother, Chyna Whitaker, also spoke during the sentencing. She mentioned how Daunte Jr. will never get to know his father.
“I am now a single mother, not by choice, by force,” said Whitaker.
‘This is beyond tragic for everybody involved’
Defense attorneys sought a lighter sentence. They argued during trial that Wright was the aggressor and that he would be alive if he had obeyed commands.
“This is beyond tragic for everybody involved,” said Paul Engh, Potter’s defense attorney.
For someone with no criminal history, such as Potter, state sentencing guidelines for first-degree manslaughter call for a penalty ranging from slightly more than six years to about 8 1/2 years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being slightly more than seven years.
Engh made a case for probation, noting that 60 percent of women who face a presumptive commit get probation.
“The reason they’re not followed is they’re too high for many defendants,” Engh said before Judge Chu.
Engh held up a box showing all the letters of support his client has received.
“This is unheard of for a defendant,” said Engh, referring to the thousands of cards and letters, some of them telling stories of how Potter, a 26-year police veteran, went out of her way to help others while on duty and outside of work.
Engh also read a letter from Potter’s elderly mother, noting how Potter would help her clean and run errands.
“If we send good police officers to jail when they make mistakes, we won’t have anyone who wants to be one,” wrote her mother.
‘I am sorry I broke your heart’
Kim Potter stood up before the court, her back to Judge Chu, to read a statement to Daunte Wright’s family.
“Katie, I understand a mother’s love, and I am sorry I broke your heart. My heart is broken for all of you,” said Potter, who has a husband and two adult sons.
“Earlier when you said I didn’t look at you during the trial, I don’t believe I had a right to, I didn’t even have a right to be in the same room as you. I am so sorry that I hurt you so badly.
“My heart is broken and devastated for all of you,” she continued. “I pray for you and Daunte many, many times a day. He is not more than one thought away from my heart and I have no right for him to be in my heart.”
Said Potter, “I do pray that one day you can find forgiveness only because hatred is so destructive to all of us. And I pray that peace will always be with you and your family.”
Potter also had a message for the city of Brooklyn Center.
“I’m sorry for what’s happened to our community since the death of Daunte. The men and women who work for you still are good, honorable people and will work hard for you. Thank you your honor.”
‘There rightfully should be accountability’
Judge Chu said she too has received hundreds of letters on the case, many in support of Potter.
Chu said she looked at four factors for incarceration: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. She said three of those factors did not apply to Potter.
“Kimberly Potter does not present a danger of future crimes obviously,” said Chu referring to incapacitation.
Judge Chu said the only one that applied was retribution for the harm inflicted on Wright.
“There rightfully should be accountability,” said Chu in issuing her sentence.
Chu said Potter’s conduct was significantly less serious than a typical manslaughter case.
“The fact she never intended to draw her firearm makes this case less serious than other cases,” said Chu.
Prosecution had argued for upward departure
Daunte Wright was killed April 11 during a traffic stop. Police had tried to arrest Wright for a gross misdemeanor warrant when Wright broke free from an officer trying to handcuff him. He had gotten back into his vehicle and was about to pull away when he was shot and killed. Another officer was on the passenger side also trying to stop Wright from putting the vehicle into drive.
Potter had yelled “Taser” multiple times before the fatal shooting. Instead, the former officer fired her service weapon, when she said she intended to use her Taser. The shooting sparked several days of demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Center police station marked by tear gas and clashes between protesters and law enforcement.
Prosecutors initially argued that aggravating factors warranted a sentence above state guidelines. During trial, they argued that Potter abused her authority as an officer and that her actions caused a greater-than-normal danger to others. Wright’s white Buick had crashed into another vehicle driven by an elderly couple following the fatal shooting. Judge Chu disagreed with that assessment saying the state had not proved that aspect.
Background of April 11 traffic stop
At the April 11 traffic stop, a Brooklyn Center officer said he initially pulled Wright over for having expired license tabs and an air freshener dangling from his rearview mirror. That officer, Anthony Luckey, said he also noticed Wright put on his right blinker in a left turn lane near 63rd and Zane Avenue.
After the traffic stop, officers later learned that Wright had an outstanding warrant for a weapons possession charge. They also learned Wright had a restraining order filed against him by an unknown woman. A different female passenger was in the car with Wright at the time of the attempted arrest. Officers had not yet determined which woman had the protective order.
Wright also had no license and no insurance for the vehicle he was driving. Marijuana was also found in the car.