MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A white former police officer convicted of manslaughter after mistaking her handgun for a Taser and fatally shooting Black motorist Daunte Wright in suburban Minneapolis in 2021 is set to be released from prison Monday.
Minnesota Department of Corrections spokesman Andy Skoogman announced Friday that former officer Kim Potter was to be released after serving about 16 months of her two-year sentence. He said the exact timing of her departure Monday from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee won’t be disclosed for security reasons.
“Our criminal investigative analysts are working closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation to ensure Kim Potter, like all incarcerated persons, is safe as she leaves our facility,” Skoogman said in a statement.
The shooting happened April 2021 as Derek Chauvin was on trial in Minneapolis on murder charges in George Floyd’s killing. Wright’s death sparked several days of protests.
Judge Regina Chu had said at Potter’s sentencing that she would be required to serve two-thirds of her sentence — 16 months — then spend the rest on probation.
Potter, now 50, appears much thinner in a new photo released by the Department of Corrections. Her attorney, Earl Gray, said he had “no idea” why her appearance changed.
“It just shows it’s rough doing time,” Gray said. “I don’t know many mug shots that show somebody in a good light.”
A message left with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the lawyer for Wright’s family, wasn’t immediately returned.
Wright, a 20-year-old father, was killed on April 11, 2021, after Brooklyn Center officers pulled him over for having expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Officers discovered he had a warrant for a misdemeanor weapons possession charge and he was shot during a struggle as officers tried to arrest him.
Civil rights advocates say laws against hanging objects from rearview mirrors have been used as a pretext for stopping Black motorists.
Potter is heard on video yelling “Taser” several times just before she fires her pistol as Wright tried to drive away from the traffic stop.
The state attorney general’s office had sought a sentence recommended by state guidelines of just over seven years in prison. Wright’s family and Crump denounced the two-year sentence as too lenient and accused the judge of giving more consideration to the white officer than the Black victim.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said after the sentencing that Potter “murdered my son,” adding: “Today the justice system murdered him all over again.”
Chu said at the time that the case wasn’t the same as other high-profile killings, including George Floyd’s death that resulted in a 22 1/2-year sentence for Chauvin. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake,” she said.
Defense attorneys argued at the sentencing hearing that Potter deserved leniency because Wright was trying to drive away and Potter had the right to defend herself.
Potter, a 26-year police veteran, apologized to Wright’s family at sentencing and spoke directly to his mother: “Katie, I understand a mother’s love. I’m sorry I broke your heart … my heart is broken and devastated for all of you.”