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Kim Potter’s 26 years of training wasn’t enough to save Daunte Wright

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor

Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie, eulogizes her son at his vigil, Monday, April 12, 2021, as the community responded to the police killing of 20-year-old Wright, with hundreds joining his family at the location on 63 Ave. N. in Brooklyn Center, Minn., where he was killed. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

The families of Daunte Wright and George Floyd held a joint press conference with Ben Crump in Brooklyn Center on Tuesday. It came a day after authorities released the identity of the officer who shot and killed Wright during Sunday’s traffic stop.

Crump and families of victims of police violence spoke outside the courthouse where Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd on Tuesday.

“It is unbelievable, something that I cannot fathom that in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a suburb 10 miles from the Chauvin trial…that a police officer would shoot and kill another unarmed Black man,” Crump said. “It’s something that if you told me and I didn’t see little Daunte’s mother and his grandmother crying, I wouldn’t believe it.” 

Kim Potter: 26-year police veteran who killed Daunte Wright

On Monday evening, Minnesota investigators released a statement. It confirmed the officer who claimed she accidentally shot and Killed Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center Sunday night is Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension immediately took over the investigation of the officer-involved shooting. Their initial statement revealed that Brooklyn Center PD officer Kim Potter has served on the force for nearly three decades. Reports came in during Ben Crump’s Tuesday press conference that Potter resigned from the department.

Nevertheless, Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, took viewers through her final moments with her son at Tuesday’s press conference.

 

Wright’s mother breaks down at press conference

Describing Sunday as the worst day of her life, Katie Wright told reporters“He said the police officers were asking about insurance.” She described hearing an officer ask Daunte to get off the phone and get out of the car. 

“I heard some scruffling,” she said through tears. The phone hung up. She tried calling several times. When she finally reached Wright’s girlfriend, Chyna Whitaker, she said “the girlfriend was crying and screaming and said they shot him. She pointed the phone at the driver’s seat and my son was laying there unresponsive.”

Media reports also indicate that Potter once served as a police union president. The revelations came amidst a second night of protesting in Brooklyn Center near Minneapolis Monday night after Potter shot fleeing, unarmed Wright at point blank range, according to body cam footage. She claims she meant to use her taser instead of her handgun, but the claim leaves many confused as to how a police officer could make the mistake after working for nearly 30 years. 

“I lost my son. He’s never coming back. I can’t accept that. A mistake? That doesn’t sound right,” Daunte Wright’s father said on Good Morning America earlier Tuesday morning. Holding back tears, Wright’s mother told GMA she wants to see justice served and see Kim Potter “held accountable for everything she’s taken from us.”

At Crump’s Tuesday afternoon press conference, Daunte Wright’s girlfriend, Chyna Whitaker, the mother of their infant child said “I just feel like that’s so wrong because now my son, he don’t have a dad. I’m just so messed up about it because I feel like they stole my son’s dad from him.”

Wright’s aunt leads Black Lives Matter chant

Wright’s father was too emotional to speak. His sister, Daunte’s aunt, spoke for him.

“Say his name!,” she yelled as the crowd chanted “Daunte Wright.” She continued,  “They murdered my nephew. She killed my nephew. I watched that video like everybody else. My nephew was 20 years old. I don’t care what nobody got to say about him. He was love, he was ours, he came from us. My brother and my sister is hurt!”

Based on the footage, which Brooklyn Center Police released at their press conference on Monday, Daunte Wright wriggles out of officer Kim Potter’s hands while she’s attempting to handcuff him. He jumps back into his car and tries to drive away when Potter extends her arm, points her gun, and yells taser three times before shooting him. The car accelerates for a few moments before crashing.  Officials revealed the body cam footage near the 8:40 mark of a recording of the press conference.

Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief resign from Brooklyn Center PD

“Holy sh—, I just shot him,” a voice can be heard saying as the car pulls away.

As relatives of police lynching victims spoke, news broke that both Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon resigned, effective immediately, according to local media

“I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Kim Potter wrote to Mayor Mike Elliot. She didn’t specify whether that love extended to the moment she killed Daunte Wright. Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned, and the mayor nominated Commander Tony Gruenig as Acting Chief.

Former Police Chief Tim Gannon defends “accidental discharge”

The city remains on edge after police initially used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters during the first night of grief and outrage, with Derek Chauvin’s trial over killing George Floyd hanging in the background like a dark cloud.

Potter’s taser was bright yellow. Her handgun was black. Officers are trained to always wear their handgun on their dominant side and their taser on their weak side, according to now-former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon. Yet, that didn’t stop him from coming to her defense during Monday’s press conference.

“This appears to me from what I view, and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright,” then-Chief Gannon had said on Monday.

He asked for people to remain peaceful and wait for the full investigation to take place after telling reporters he believes his officer’s actions were “accidental.” 

He said the BCA did not condone him releasing the video, but he said he wanted to be transparent. 

Tasked with investigating the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, who Potter killed after stopping him for an alleged expired tag, The BCA’s original statement confirmed the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s findings that Daunte Demetrius Wright died by homicide at the hands of Potter’s firearm discharge. 

How much more training will it take?

Potter’s nearly three decades of training appears to defy the notion from moderate politicians and city leaders who claim that police need more training and more funding to properly do their jobs. While leaders across the country have pushed back against the Black Lives Matter-inspired “defund the police” movement, efforts like President Biden’s to give police more money and more training appear to ring hollow to those who see a never-ending pattern.

“We have numerous trainings throughout the year. We do tactical training, we do firearms training, we do taser deployments. We have pretty thorough taser re-qualifications on a yearly basis,” former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon had said on Monday.

One reporter in the conference asked him if he was aware that there is a two to three month delay at the DMV. So, even some of those who pay for their new tags haven’t yet received them. 

“I am aware of that,” Gannon stated.

“Is your staff aware of that,” the reporter asked.

“Yes,” Gannon responded.

Black Mayor condemned Kim Potter on Monday

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot rejected any defense of Potter’s actions.

“Let me be very clear. My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession. So I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.” Mayor Mike Elliot, a Black man, had said at Monday’s press conference.

Despite years of activism to reform police through more trainings, cultural awareness, and body cams, the rate that police kill civilians, and especially unarmed Black civilians, hasn’t changed.

Statistics show rates of police killings haven’t changed

Mapping Police Violence reported that even during a Pandemic, police killed more than 1,100 people in 2020. The United States has by far the highest rate of police killings of civilians of any wealthy country.

Moreover, Minneapolis is a city with the second-highest rate of racial disparities between police killings of Black and White people in the nation.

A day before then-Chief Gannon and then-officer Potter submitted their resignations, Brooklyn Center Mayor Elliot had explained that the city manager has control over firing and hiring. But on Tuesday, reports came out indicating that hours after Monday’s conference, the city council voted to hand over control of the police to Mayor Elliot. City Manager Boganey was then fired and the deputy city manager was promoted to take his place.

Is looting justified when government breaks social contract?

When a reporter asked former Chief Gannon if he made the call to use tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters Sunday night, he responded, “I am the police chief in this city. Police action is made by me. The decision is made by me.” Evidently, the decision will now be made by someone else after the chief’s resignation.

Media outlets often highlight the looting and property damage that sometimes takes place hours into peaceful protests. Yet, it’s rare for the media to question the property damage committed by police when their tactics involve chemical weapons and projectiles. When a reporter at Monday’s press conference asked if the then-chief was aware that a police officer’s flash bang was launched close to an apartment complex with families, the chief dismissed it, claiming he didn’t see that happen.

Politicians and celebrities made the typical consoling statements on social media. President Biden, however, seemed to stress the need for protests to remain peaceful more than the need for swift justice and accountable for the murder of a Black civilian at the hands of the State.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Biden said, 

“Our prayers are with their family. It’s really a tragic thing that happened. But I think we gotta wait and see what the investigation shows. The entire investigation. You all watched, as I assume, as I did. The film of the body cam which is fairly graphic. Question is was it an accident or was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation. But in the meantime, I wanna make it clear again. There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting. No justification for violence. Peaceful protest? Understandable.”

Some see looting as politically justified

Throughout the last decade of officer-involved shootings that have led to massive uprisings, politicians both Democrat and Republican have shown bipartisan support for never recognizing property damage as a form of political dissent. The Declaration of Independence lays out the notion that when a government breaks its social contract with the people it represents, those people have the inherent right to alter or abolish that government.

Yet, few American cities have recognized that when armed state agents with a license to kill lose the trust of the communities they patrol, and when social, economic and political attempts to redress grievances go unanswered, communities will respond by any means necessary.

Some on social media drew parallels between the fact that many in the country view the January 6 insurrection as a political act, while framing looting after a police killing as mindless Black rage.

Activist calls out police actions

Bree Newsome, a grassroots activists and unapologetic defender of Black dignity who became famous for scaling a South Carolina flagpole to remove a Confederate flag in 2015, shared her thoughts on Twitter.

“I’m definitely in the camp of defending rioting & looting as a legitimate, politically-informed response to state violence,” Newsome said. “That offends many people’s sensibilities because people are so fully indoctrinated into white supremacy that they’ve never interrogated who is allowed to damage property and why. The police are simultaneously damaging property during a riot they incited but that is deemed acceptable.”

Meanwhile, Potter’s experience as police union president will almost certainly play into the support she receives from law enforcement. It’s worth noting that in the military, an accidental discharge is automatically considered negligence. And many in the community believe Brooklyn Center appeared as an occupying force during Sunday and Monday night protests.

Moreover, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has requested additional national guard troops to aid the already more than 500 troops currently stationed in the Twin Cities as the Derek Chauvin trial continues its third week.

Though Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, for many, including Daunte Wright’s aunt, that isn’t enough. “She needs to pay,” Wright’s aunt said at Tuesday’s press conference. She also made a startling revelation: George Floyd’s girlfriend was also Daunte Wright’s teacher.

Relatives of victims call for justice

Floyd’s brother, Philonise, joined Wright’s family in calling for justice.

“Police officers are killing us, and we are being murdered at a rate I never thought I could imagine. This reminds me of Oscar Grant,” Floyd said, reminding the nation of a similar police killing a few years earlier. “There’s a time for change and that time is now. To the protesters all around this nation, stand up. We need y’all to come out.”

As politicians and law enforcement officials prepare for another night of protest, the nation waits for charges, prosecution and conviction in the killings of Floyd and Wright. Many are beginning to see the police profession as unfixable.

A relative of Emmett Till, who racist Whites badly beat and murdered in 1955 Mississippi, after a White woman accused him of whistling at her, also attended Crump’s Tuesday press conference.

“The past is not past until justice is served. We are tired and exhausted of the terrorism that has been brought against our families across this country. And I would only say to the families, we are gonna continue to stand up. Continue to speak out. Continue to fight for justice. Emmet Till, we’re fighting for justice after 66 years. We love you and have your back. Black Lives Matter.”

3 comments

Joe Hepperle April 14, 2021 - 9:05 am

I wonder if “Taser! Taser! Taser! —POP!— — Oh sh**, I shot him!”

is the new version of

“Stop trying to take my gun! Stop resisting arrest!”

Reply
Ts April 14, 2021 - 10:30 am

You know what would have saved Daunte Wright? If he hadn’t pulled a gun on a woman and tried to rob and choke her! Or if he hadn’t broken his parole or shown up in court when ordered to do so! Or if he had not resisted arrest and jumped back in his car, putting the officers life at great risk and giving her seconds to react and try to protect herself against someone who has already proven he has no problem pulling a gun on someone! He isn’t a martyr and she isn’t a racist killer. Grow up and take some responsibility fir your own actions people!

Reply
Former cop who killed Daunte Wright charged with second-degree manslaughter April 14, 2021 - 1:54 pm

[…] officer Kimberly Potter, a 26 year veteran, pulled her gun from her holster, pointed it at Wright and fired one shot into his […]

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