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Former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter convicted of manslaughter in shooting death of Daunte Wright

Photo by Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

After four days of deliberations, a Minnesota jury has found former police officer Kim Potter guilty of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the April 11th shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Wright's death became national news when bodycam footage of his arrest was released to the public. In the footage, Wright — who was being detained after a traffic stop due to an outstanding warrant — began to struggle with police and managed to successfully free himself from police and got back into the car. Wright was unarmed at the time, but according to the testimony of officers present, was attempting to regain control of the steering wheel and possibly flee in his vehicle. In the bodycam footage, Potter could be heard saying, "I'll tase you," followed a few seconds later by, "Taser, taser, taser!"

Potter then shot Wright with her firearm, and said, "Oh, sh*t, I just shot him." Wright then drove off, and struck another passenger car about 500 feet away. Officers attempted CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Potter claimed that she believed she had her taser in her hand when she shot Wright, a claim apparently bolstered by her verbal declarations immediately prior to the shooting; however, due to the difference in weight and appearance between a taser and her Glock 9 mm service pistol, and the fact that she held the gun in her hand for over 5 seconds before discharging it, some law enforcement efforts questioned how such a mistake could have been made, particularly by an officer with over 25 years of experience.

After the shooting, Potter was arrested on April 14th and charged with second-degree manslaughter in Wright's death. A charge of first-degree manslaughter was added later. Potter pled not guilty to the charges.

At trial, which began on November 30th, Potter's defense team argued that Wright's actions in resisting arrest caused the confusion which led to a "slip and capture" error on Potter's part, and in the alternative, that she would have been justified in using either her taser or her firearm to prevent Wright from having been able to obtain control of the vehicle. Potter testified in her own defense and stated that she mistook her taser for her firearm.

After about 27 hours of deliberations, the jury rejected Potter's arguments and returned a guilty verdict. Potter was remanded to custody after the verdict was read, and she will reportedly be sentenced in February.

After the jury's decision was announced, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison stated, "Accountability is not justice. Justice is restoration. Justice would be restoring Daunte to life and making the Wright family whole again. Justice is beyond the reach that we have in this life for Daunte. But accountability is an important step, a critical, necessary step on the road to justice for us all."

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