ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Attorney General's office on Friday, May 21, announced it would lead the prosecution against a former Brooklyn Center police officer who fatally shot a man during a traffic stop.

Attorney General Keith Ellison in a news release said his office would lead the prosecution of former officer Kim Potter after Washington County Attorney's office returned the case to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Potter faces second-degree manslaughter charges following the April 11 shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank is set to supervise the case, Ellison said in the release, and the Hennepin County Attorney's office is set to staff the prosecuting team. Frank served as a presenting attorney in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. A Hennepin County jury convicted Chauvin of second and third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Ellison said he would also actively assist in the case and that a review of evidence and charges against Potter was underway. He didn't say whether his office would consider bringing additional charges.

"Prosecutors are ministers of justice. This means we must and will follow justice wherever it leads. I promise the Wright family and all Minnesotans that I will handle this prosecution responsibly and consistent with the law, and that I will be guided by the values of accountability and transparency," Ellison said in the release. "No one, however, should expect this case will be easy to prosecute. History shows that this case, like all cases of officer-involved deaths by deadly force, will be difficult."

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Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

On April 11, Potter yelled out, "Taser, taser," before discharging her firearm at 20-year-old Wright, during a traffic stop. After firing the shot, Potter yelled out, "S***, I just shot him." Wright then fled in his car and later died from the single gunshot wound.

Brooklyn Center police have said the shooting was an accident as Potter intended to pull her stun gun. Potter and former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon resigned their positions within days of the incident.

In June, county attorneys in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington counties signed an agreement saying they would not prosecute cases of police deadly force in their own jurisdictions. And it was in that spirit that Freeman referred the case to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.

Both Freeman and Orput on Friday said they felt the review and prosecution of the case should be taken up by the state's top prosecutor.

“The Attorney General, the Washington County Attorney, and I are following the protocol the five urban county attorneys signed last summer, which includes asking the Attorney General to take police use of deadly force cases," Freeman said. "The Potter case is now appropriately in the hands of the Attorney General.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday said he'd hosted Wright's family at the governor's residence and learned from them that they hoped to "have the strongest legal team possible to bring their family justice."

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot by a white officer during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Photo provided by family / Star Tribune / TNS
Daunte Wright, 20, was shot by a white officer during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Photo provided by family / Star Tribune / TNS

"No verdict will bring Daunte back to his family, but I have full faith that Attorney General Ellison will build the best team possible to pursue accountability for what happened that tragic day," Walz said in a news release.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com