Daunte Wright killing: MN attorney general takes over ex-cop's prosecution

a courtroom sketch of Kim Potter appearing in court
In this Zoom courtroom sketch, former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter and defense attorney Earl Gray (upper right) appear before Judge Regina Chu (upper left), a court reporter (lower right) and prosecutor Imran Ali (lower left, audio only) on May 17.
Cedric Hohnstadt

Updated: 6:00 p.m.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will take over the prosecution of a former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott asked for Ellison’s office to take over prosecution as it did in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer recently convicted of murder in the killing of George Floyd.

Wright was shot and killed by officer Kimberly Potter April 11.

Potter was one of several officers attempting to arrest Wright during the stop. Officials said the veteran officer had intended to stun the man with her Taser gun to subdue him but accidentally drew her handgun instead and fired once, hitting Wright in the chest.

While the shooting happened in Hennepin County, the case was reviewed by Washington County Attorney Pete Orput per prior agreement. Orput brought a single charge of second-degree manslaughter against Potter.

Wright’s family and other supporters, however, have criticized the decision and have sought a murder charge against Potter. Her trial is expected to start Dec. 6. Court records show she’s pleading not guilty.

It’s not clear if Ellison seek a murder charge against Potter. In a statement Friday, Ellison said gaining a conviction would not be easy.

“I did not seek this prosecution and do not accept it lightly,” Ellison said, adding that he had confidence in how Orput and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman have handled the case.

“We’re going to handle the case with seriousness — with all due regard for the precious life of Daunte Wright — and we’re going to seek justice and a fair trial. And let me just note for everybody, Kim Potter is presumed innocent,” Ellison said Friday in an interview with Jonathan Capehart on the online forum, Washington Post Live.

Freeman and Orput issued statements supporting Ellison’s office taking over, as did Gov. Tim Walz. The Brooklyn Center mayor also applauded the move. “I wanted to see this same level of prosecution in Daunte’s case,” Elliott said in a statement. “His family, friends and our community deserve it.”

Nekima Levy Armstrong, an attorney and advocate against police violence, said public pressure on Orput and the Governor’s office helped to get the Potter case moved to Ellison’s office.

”It is long overdue for Minnesota to have a paradigm shift with regard to how policing cases are handled. The public has been crying out for it. We’ve been taking to the streets for many, many years, demanding these changes, demanding transparency and demanding accountability,” Levy Armstrong said.

“Now we can finally begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel with today’s decision.”

Potter’s attorney, Earl Gray, declined comment when reached by MPR News.

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