A veteran police officer who shot dead a Black motorist has been charged over the incident that's reignited rage over racial injustice in the US that first boiled over last year following George Floyd's death.
Kim Potter, 48, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter over the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minneapolis, a day after she and police chief Tim Gannon stood down from their positions.
Gannon said that Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead.
However, protesters and Wright’s family members say there’s no excuse for the shooting and that it shows how the justice system is tilted against Blacks, noting Wright was stopped for expired car registration and ended up dead.
The shooting has ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police and comes as ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial over the alleged murder of Floyd.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, said in a statement announcing the charges against Potter.
"Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”
Potter faces a maximum of 10 years in prison from the charge.
She was arrested on Wednesday (local time).
Concrete barricades and tall metal fencing had been set up around Potter’s home in Champlin, north of Brooklyn Center, with police cars guarding the driveway.
After Floyd’s death last year, protesters demonstrated several times at the home of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer now on trial in Floyd’s death.
Wright's family reject accident claims
Police say Wright was pulled over for expired tags on Sunday, but they sought to arrest him after discovering he had an outstanding warrant.
The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
Body camera video that Gannon released Monday shows Potter approaching Wright as he stands outside of his car while another officer is arresting him.
As Wright struggles with police, Potter shouts, “I’ll Tase you! I’ll Tase you! Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single shot from a handgun in her right hand.
The news release announcing the charge noted that Potter holstered her handgun on the right side and her Taser on the left. The handles of each weapon faced to Potter’s rear.
The Taser is yellow with a black grip and would require Potter to remove it from her holster with her left hand, the county attorney’s statement said.
Wright family attorney Ben Crump said the family appreciates the criminal case, but he again disputed that the shooting was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.
“Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant,” he said.
Experts say cases of officers mistakenly firing their gun instead of a Taser are rare, usually less than once a year nationwide.
Brooklyn Center, a suburb just north of Minneapolis, has seen its racial demographics shift dramatically in recent years. In 2000, more than 70 per cent of the city was white. Today, a majority of residents are Black, Asian or Hispanic.
Mayor Mike Elliott said Tuesday that he didn’t have at hand information on the police force’s racial diversity but that “we have very few people of colour in our department.”
One of the two officers accompanying Potter during the incident is of colour.
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