Potter, a white woman, claimed she mistakenly discharged her firearm instead of her stun gun while attempting to arrest Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The incident occurred just days before a Minnesota jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd.
Brooklyn Center police said they stopped Wright over expired car registration tags and because he had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, a violation of Minnesota law. Officers attempted to arrest Wright after discovering a "gross misdemeanor warrant" for his arrest had been issued.
Potter said she meant to shoot Wright with her Taser after he broke free from the officers and re-entered his car, but she accidentally fired her gun instead. Video recorded by an officer's body camera shows Potter pointing her gun at Wright for several seconds before shooting him.
The jury didn't buy it.
Potter's attorney made the former officer's incompetence central to her defense. Despite having 26 years of police experience, Potter made a simple “mistake” that was undeserving of punishment, her legal team argued.
“I’m sorry it happened,” Potter testified through tears. “I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Tearful performances of contrition have become part of the customary act white police and pseudo-police put on while facing charges for their violence.
“In the walk of life, nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes,” defense attorney Earl Gray said. “My gosh, a mistake is not a crime. It just isn’t in our freedom-loving country.”
Yet, Gray argued that Wright’s actions during the arrest — which some might easily deem a mistake — warranted his killing.
"Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately," Gray said.
In a departure from similar cases involving deaths by police, the jury in Potter's case disagreed with Gray's assessment. They found that officers entrusted with deadly weapons and empowered by the state have an obligation to act responsibly with that power.
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