SHAKOPEE, Minn. (AP) — Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who said she mistook her gun for a Taser when she shot and killed Daunte Wright in 2021, was released from prison early Monday. The shooting happened during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, and Wright’s death set off several days of protests.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections said Potter was released at about 4 a.m. “out of an abundance of caution” for Potter’s safety. The department confirmed Friday she would be released Monday from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, but declined to say what time due to security concerns.
Potter, a white former officer for the Brooklyn Center Police Department in suburban Minneapolis, fatally shot Wright, who was Black, during a traffic stop in April 2021. She was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and given a two-year sentence. Under Minnesota law, those sent to prison typically serve two-thirds of their sentence behind bars and the remaining time on supervised release. In Potter’s case, she served 16 months of her two-year sentence behind bars, said Department of Corrections spokesman Andy Skoogman.
Skoogman said Potter will be on supervised release until December 21, and she will live in Wisconsin during that time. Now 50, Potter appeared much thinner in a new photo released last week by the Department of Corrections. Her attorney, Earl Gray, said Friday he had “no idea” why her appearance had changed.
Potter’s two-year sentence from Judge Regina Chu drew strong criticism from Wright’s family and their attorney, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump. The state attorney general’s office had sought a sentence recommended by state guidelines of just over seven years in prison. Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said after the sentencing that Potter “murdered my son,” adding: “Today the justice system murdered him all over again.”
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. Chu said at the time that the case was not the same as other high-profile killings, including Floyd’s death, which resulted in a 22 1/2-year sentence for Chauvin. “This is a cop who made a tragic mistake,” she said of Potter.
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.
Potter said she thought she was holding her Taser at the time, not her gun. She is heard on video yelling “Taser” several times just before she fires her pistol as Wright tried to drive away. A 26-year police veteran, she apologized to Wright’s family at the sentencing hearing 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.”
Civil rights advocates say laws against hanging objects from rearview mirrors have been used as a pretext for stopping Black motorists.