Kim Potter, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was sentenced on Friday to two years, far less than the seven-year sentence that prosecutors were seeking.
Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, will serve 16 months in prison and another eight months on supervised release. She will also pay a $1,000 fine.
The 24-month sentence is much shorter than the state guidelines of a presumptive sentence of 86 months or seven years for first-degree manslaughter.
In her statement, Judge Regina Chu emphasized the complexities of the case, contrasting it with other high-profile police killings, including the murder of George Floyd.
"This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for 9 and a half minutes as he gasped for air," she said. "This is a cop who made a tragic mistake."
Chu, who called it one of the "saddest cases" in her 20 years on the bench, acknowledged that there will be people who disagree with the shorter sentence.
"That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright’s life. His life mattered," she said.
Potter did not react when her sentence was handed down, but murmurs were heard in the back of the courtroom.
Earlier during the hearing, Potter tearfully addressed Wright's family, apologizing to them as she did during the trial.
"To the family of Daunte Wright, I am so sorry that I brought the death of your son, father, brother, uncle, grandson, nephew, and the rest of your family," she said.
Wright's family also had a chance to speak, and they asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
"I will not give her the respect of calling her by her name," his mom, Katie Ann Wright, said, referring to Potter as "the defendant" throughout her statement.
"She referred to Daunte over and over again as 'the driver,' as if killing him wasn't enough to dehumanize him. She never once said his name. And for that I'll never be able to forgive you. And I'll never be able to forgive you for what you've stolen from us," Katie Ann Wright said.
Wright's family members pointed to Potter's 26-year career with the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
"Kim Potter was trained, and was trained to prevent this type of thing from ever happening," his dad, Arbuey Wright, said. "She was a police officer longer than my son was alive."
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office led the prosecution against Potter, said in a statement Friday that he accepted the sentence, and urged others to do so.
"I don’t ask you to agree with her decision, which takes nothing away from the truth of the jury’s verdict," he said. "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."
Potter, who is white, was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in December, after she accidentally pulled her handgun instead of a Taser and fatally shot Wright during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021.
Wright and his girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, were pulled over by Potter and an officer she was training for having expired tags and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. After running a search for his name, the officers found a warrant out for Wright's arrest for missing a court appearance over misdemeanor charges of carrying a handgun without a permit and running from police.
Graphic body camera footage from the encounter showed the officers struggling with Wright as he tried to get back into his car during the arrest. Potter was heard yelling "Taser!" before shooting, then appeared to realize she had fired a gunshot.
"Oh, shit. I shot him. I grabbed the wrong fucking gun," Potter was heard saying in the video. "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I’m going to prison."
During Potter's trial, her defense attorneys conceded that she "made a mistake," but ultimately pinned the blame on Wright for trying to flee during the arrest. Prosecutors emphasized the deadly consequences of Potter's actions.
"This was no little oopsie," Erin Eldridge, a Minnesota assistant attorney general, said in closing arguments. "This was not putting the wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screwup, a blunder of epic proportions."