A Minnesota city was gripped by protests for a second night in a row as officials released the name of the white cop who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop—apparently after she mistook her handgun for a taser.
Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was identified as the person who fired a bullet into 20-year-old Daunte Wright’s chest. Demonstrators flouted a curfew Monday to take to the streets and demand Potter be fired and charged. She has been placed on “standard administrative leave,” according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Wright’s death Sunday set off a series of demonstrations that are occurring against the backdrop of the Derek Chauvin murder trial in neighboring Minneapolis, which also involved a Black man, George Floyd, killed at the hands of police. People have been demonstrating outside Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters since Sunday; cops have used tear gas, flashbangs, and rubber bullets to control the crowd. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Monday that the National Guard presence would remain “robust” over the next “two or three days.”
Protesters remained outside well past the 7 p.m. curfew ordered by Gov. Tim Walz in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Wright. National Guard troops joined police to keep the crowd under control as night fell upon a city in turmoil.
In video footage from the body-cam worn by Potter during an the fatal Sunday traffic stop, a second cop can be seen yanking Wright from the vehicle after pulling him over for what police first said was an outstanding misdemeanor warrant—an explanation they later revised to say Wright had in fact been stopped for having expired license plates. Wright’s mother said her son called her during the incident and told her he had been pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, a citable offense in Minnesota.Wright can be seen in the bodycam video getting back into his SUV when Potter pulls her gun and yells, “Taser, Taser!” She then shoots Wright and immediately exclaims, “Holy shit, I shot him.”
“As I watch the video and listen to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters in a press briefing.The Hennepin County Medical Examiner declared Wright to have died from a gunshot wound to the chest and classified the manner of death as “homicide.”
In 2019, Potter—who was the police union president at the time—was one of the first officers to respond to a police shooting that left a 21-year-old autistic man dead.
“Officer Potter instructed Officers Turner and Akers to exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body worn cameras, and to not talk to each other,” states a report issued by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. No charges were filed in that case.
Potter has also been on the receiving end of accolades. In 2016, she was honored for successfully ending a standoff the previous year with an apparently armed man threatening suicide.
The Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center was established in 1911 on land owned by a county sheriff and Ku Klux Klansman named Earle Brown, who was also a founding member of the Minnesota Highway Patrol. Brown also served as vice president of the Minnesota Eugenics Society, a virulently racist organization that promoted the sterilization of the “feeble minded.” Hennepin County, which includes Brooklyn Center, is subject to the curfew, as are Ramsey, Dakota and Anoka counties. The same curfew will apply in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, their mayors announced.
The shooting and the continually tightening restrictions on public protests have not only heightened tensions among protesters but among many Muslim residents of the area.“By imposing a citywide curfew on the very first night of Ramadan without consulting Minneapolis Muslim leaders, our leaders have undermined the community’s trust and violated the Constitution,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “Public officials must amend the curfew in order to respect freedom of religion, including the right to gather and worship during Ramadan.”
Wright’s killing has already shaken up city government. After Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said he believed the officer who shot and killed Wright should be fired—echoing a demand made by local activists—Brooklyn Center City Manager Curt Boganey said the officer would be afforded “due process.” Elliott later announced that Boganey had been “relieved of his duties” and that Deputy City Manager Reggie Edwards would be taking over.
“All of the world is watching our community. We continue to be distressed as we go through the Derek Chauvin trial,” Elliott said. “We will get to the bottom of this.”
Wright had a minor police record, with two petty misdemeanor charges filed against him in August 2019 for selling marijuana and disorderly conduct. He was released and scheduled to appear in court this summer, according to jail records. There was in fact an outstanding warrant for Wright’s arrest, according to Hennepin County authorities, who said it was issued after Wright failed to appear for a court hearing on April 2. The charge involved an unlicensed gun Wright was allegedly caught carrying.
Wright’s family has hired attorney Ben Crump, a civil-rights lawyer who has in the past represented the families of other victims of police misconduct including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
“We just want people to know Daunte was a good kid,” the family said in a statement. “He loved being a father to Daunte Jr.”