Kim Potter, who killed Daunte Wright, sentenced to 24 months, fine on manslaughter convictions
The jury deliberated for about four days.
Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter was sentenced to 24 months and a fine of $1,000 on Friday following her conviction in the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot during a traffic stop.
Potter will serve 16 months in prison and the remaining eight months on supervised release, a sentence far below what the prosecution sought. Judge Regina Chu acknowledged the sentence was a "significant downward departure" from sentencing guidelines.
"I recognize there will be those who disagree with the sentence. That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright's life. His life mattered. And to those who disagree and feel a longer prison sentence is appropriate, as difficult as it may be, please try to empathize with Ms. Potter's situation," Chu said.
Chu said she received "hundreds" of letters in support of Potter, all of which she said she had read.
"This is one of the saddest cases I have had in my 20 years on the bench," Chu said when delivering the sentence. "Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically, but she never intended to hurt anyone."
A surcharge of $78 will also be taken out of Potter's prison wages. She already has a credit of 58 days served in jail while awaiting sentencing.
The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years and a $30,000 fine and for second-degree manslaughter -- 10 years and a $20,000 fine.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Arbuey Wright, Daunte Wright's father, described how upset he is with the sentence Potter was given.
"I walk out of this courthouse feeling like people are laughing at us because this lady got a slap on the wrist and every night we are still waiting around crying, waiting for my son to come home," he said.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family, said the judge's comments at sentencing "showed a clear absence of compassion for the victim in this tragedy and were devastating to the family."
"Today's sentencing of Kim Potter leaves the family of Daunte Wright completely stunned. While there is a small sense of justice because she will serve nominal time, the family is also deeply disappointed there was not a greater level of accountability," Crump said in a statement.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in a statement said he accepts the judge's decision and urged everyone to "accept her judgment."
"I don’t ask you to agree with her decision, which takes nothing away from the truth of the jury’s verdict. I know it is hurtful to loved ones of Daunte Wright. I ask that we remember the beauty of Daunte Wright, to keep his memory in our hearts, and to know that no number of years in prison could ever capture the wonder of this young man’s life," Ellison wrote.
"There is no cause for celebration: no one has won. We all have lost, none more than Daunte Wright and the people who love him. None of us ever wanted Kim Potter to recklessly pull the wrong weapon and kill Daunte Wright," he said.
Before the sentencing, Katie Ann Wright, Daunte Wright's mother, delivered an emotional and tearful impact statement Friday, asking the judge to give Potter the maximum sentence.
"I will never be able to forgive you for what you have stolen from us," she said, while addressing Potter during her statement. "You took his future."
"My life and my world will never be the same," she said.
In her statement, Katie Ann Wright said she would not be able to give Potter sympathy.
"How do you show remorse when you smile in your mug shot after being sentenced to manslaughter, after taking my son's life?" she asked.
Katie Ann Wright told the judge that Potter left her family's world with "so much darkness and heartache."
She said that Potter never once said her son's name, only referring to him as "the driver," which she saw as dehumanizing her son, she said.
"I will continue saying your name until driving while Black is no longer a death sentence," she said.
Afterward, Potter tearfully apologized to the Wright family and responded to them calling her out for "never looking at them."
"I didn't feel like I had the right to look at any of you," Potter said. "I am so sorry that I hurt you so badly."
A Minnesota jury convicted Potter, 49, of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11, 2021, incident. She had pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Arbuey Wright told the court the killing of his son was because of Potter's recklessness.
"She was a police office longer than my son was alive," Arbuey Wright said during his impact statement.
"She also damaged my whole family's heart. Nothing will be the same. Everything we do as a family ends in tears because all we have is memories left of our son," he said.
Daunte Wright's sister Diamond Wright also addressed the court, saying how difficult the loss of her brother has been.
"I never thought that my brother would be killed by the same people we are supposed to feel protected by," Diamond Wright said. "I feel like I have been living in a complete nightmare."
She had also asked the judge for the maximum sentencing.
"You can't tell me this was an accident, it is in plain sight," she said. "How come I have to see my brother in a metal container just to talk to him?"
In a court filing on Tuesday, Ellison's office announced they sought 86 months, or seven years and two months, prison time for Potter. Sentences in the state are served concurrently, so Potter only would have served the higher sentence.
The prosecution had also asked that in the event the court sentences Potter to probation, that she serve at least one year in prison "to reflect the seriousness of Daunte Wright's death," and that the probation last at least 10 years, according to court documents.
Potter fatally shot Wright after initially pulling him over for an expired registration tag on his car. She then determined he had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge and tried to detain him, according to former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who resigned after the incident.
As officers tried to arrest him, Wright freed himself and tried to get back in his vehicle. That's when, according to Potter's attorneys, she accidentally grabbed her firearm instead of her stun gun and shot him.
Wright's death reignited protests against racism and police brutality across the U.S., as the killing took place just outside of Minneapolis, where the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was taking place at the time.
Potter took the stand on the last day of her trial, breaking down in tears and apologizing. "I'm sorry," she said through sobs, "I didn't want to hurt anybody."
The jury deliberated for about four days before reaching a verdict on Dec. 23.
Dave Packer reports for ABC Audio: