Doubts have been raised about how a 26-year police veteran could mistake a handgun for a Taser, after the Brooklyn Center police chief said he believes the officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright did so accidentally.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on Monday identified Kim Potter as the officer who shot Wright, a day after the 20-year-old Black man's death in the Minneapolis suburb sparked unrest in an area already on edge due to the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Potter, who has been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years, has been placed on "standard administrative leave," the BCA said in a statement. She is also president of the department's police union, the Star Tribune reported.
Brooklyn Center police said officers had stopped Wright for a traffic violation on Sunday afternoon and learned there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. They said Wright attempted to get back in his vehicle, prompting an officer to shoot him. He died at the scene.
Ofc. Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright — but did she know the difference between a handgun and a taser? The facts:
‼️ 26 years as a police officer — She was 6 YEARS into her career when Daunte was BORN!
‼️ Serves as police union president
‼️ Defended questionable actions before... pic.twitter.com/M9eMU7Tyjw— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 13, 2021
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At a news conference on Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon described the shooting as "an accidental discharge."
Authorities released body camera footage that showed Potter shouting at Wright as officers tried to arrest him. "Taser! Taser! Taser!" she can be heard saying, as she draws her weapon when Wright gets behind the wheel of his vehicle.
After firing a single shot from her gun, she is heard saying: "Holy sh**! I just shot him."
At the news conference, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said the officer's position should be terminated.
"My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession," he said. "And so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties."
Later, he announced that the city council had given his office the authority over the police department, and that City Manager Curt Boganey had been fired with the deputy city manager assuming his duties. "At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership," Elliott tweeted.
Ofc. Kim Potter knew exactly what she was doing.
She knew how to obscure the truth.
In that instance, her actions were clearly intentional. #JusticeForDaunteWright pic.twitter.com/pqwuq7vhTZ— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) April 13, 2021
At the news conference, Boganey had declined to say whether he believed the officer should be fired, and said that she would get "due process."
Gannon also did not say whether Potter would be fired. "I think we can watch the video and ascertain whether she will be returning," he said.
The police chief said he believed Potter had intended to use her Taser, but instead fired a bullet from her handgun.
"As I watched the video and listened to the officer's commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet," he said. "From what I viewed and the officer's reaction in distress immediately after that, this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright."
But Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Wright family, was among those who questioned how a 26-year veteran of the police department could confuse the two weapons.
"Ofc. Kim Potter killed Daunte Wright — but did she know the difference between a handgun and a taser?" Crump tweeted.
Crump also noted that Potter is the police union president and "taught officers who fatally shot Kobe Dimock-Heisler how to protect themselves [and] obscure accountability."
Crump quoted from a Hennepin County Attorney's Office report that said Potter was the among the first to arrive at the scene after Dimock-Heisler was shot in 2019 and had advised the officers involved.
Potter "instructed Officers Turner and Akers to exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body worn cameras, and to not talk to each other," the report said. The officers were cleared of wrongdoing and no charges were filed.
Crump concluded: "Ofc. Kim Potter knew exactly what she was doing. She knew how to obscure the truth. In that instance, her actions were clearly intentional."
Wright's older brother, Dallas Bryant, also questioned how the officer could mistake a gun for a Taser, the Associated Press reported.
26 years in law enforcement and they want us to think that Officer Kim Potter grabbed her gun BY MISTAKE?!!!? Her taser is BRIGHT YELLOW and on the left side of her body! #DuanteWright pic.twitter.com/fOlwb4ZFhf— Rob Gill (@vote4robgill) April 13, 2021
"You know the difference between plastic and metal. We all know it," he told people gathered at a candlelight vigil on Monday.
On Twitter, some pointed to photographs that indicate Potter's Taser is yellow.
Rob Gill wrote: "26 years in law enforcement and they want us to think that Officer Kim Potter grabbed her gun BY MISTAKE?!!!? Her taser is BRIGHT YELLOW and on the left side of her body!"
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman referred the case to Washington County "to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest," his office said in a news release.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told the Star Tribune that his office will conduct a "thorough yet expedited" review of the case and hopes to have criminal charges drafted Tuesday or Wednesday.
An attorney representing Potter has been contacted for comment.
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