Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison — who successfully got a murder conviction against Dereck Chauvin in the George Floyd case — will lead the prosecution of the former police officer accused of killing Daunte Wright.
Kim Potter, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, after she said she mistook her gun for her taser in the April 11 Brooklyn Center traffic stop, and shot the 20-year-old black man dead.
“Daunte Wright’s death was a tragedy. He should not have died on the day that he did. He should not have died the way that he did,” Ellison said in a statement.
The state’s top prosecutor took the case after a county attorney decided to hand the case off to another local office in the Minneapolis suburbs.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput had taken the case after area prosecutors agreed to hand off fatal cases involving police to neighboring officials. However he backed off the responsibility after protestors called for him to charge Potter, 48, with murder.
Ellison said Friday he is reviewing the case, but did not indicate if he would upgrade the charges against the former officer.
Civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong welcomed Ellison’s involvement, but said she would accept nothing less than murder charges.
“The case rises to the level of murder charges,” Armstrong said. “This is not the situation where an officer should receive a slap on the wrist… I don’t know why anyone should accept a manslaughter charge.”
Armstrong said Wright was pulled over due to racial profiling and Potter — who had decades on the job — escalated the situation unnecessarily and inappropriately.
Wright’s mother, who was on the phone with him before he was killed, said he had been pulled over for a hanging air freshener. Police said he was stopped for expired credentials, which led to the discovery of a warrant for a weapons violation.
Wright was shot dead as he resisted arrest, ten miles from the ongoing landmark murder trial of Chauvin.
“I did not seek this prosecution and do not accept it lightly,” Ellison said. “I have had, and continue to have, confidence in how both County Attorney Orput and County Attorney Freeman have handled this case to date. … Prosecutors are ministers of justice. This means we must and will follow justice wherever it leads.”
Ellison told the Washington Post he would not model the case after the Chauvin trial.
“Our approach will be tailored to the case itself,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t want anyone to expect that because we did one thing in one case we’re going to do the same thing in another case.”
Governor Tim Walz, a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, who had recently hosted the Wright family at his official residence, said he was glad Ellison was taking the case.
“No verdict will bring Daunte back to his family, but I have full faith that Attorney General Ellison will build the best team possible to pursue accountability for what happened that tragic day,” Walz said.
With Post wires