Former Minnesota officer Kimberly Potter has been released from prison after serving 16 months of a two-year sentence in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, whom she shot after mistaking her gun for a Taser during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Potter was released from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee at 4 a.m. on Monday, the department said, noting the early hour was due to safety concerns and the potential for violent protests outside the facility.
Potter was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the killing of 20-year-old Wright, an unarmed Black man, during a 2021 traffic stop near Minneapolis. Wright was pulled over for having expired tags and for a hanging air freshener.
Potter will be on supervised release for the remaining third of her sentence, in accordance with Minnesota law, which doesn’t provide time off for good behavior, the corrections department said. Potter’s supervised release expires in December.
Potter’s attorney, Earl Gray, told CNN the former officer with 26 years of experience has no plans to return to Minnesota and will live in Wisconsin.
Wright’s mother, Katie, said she was “dreading” Potter’s release and is struggling to find peace. She said she suffered a stroke that left her temporarily with blurred vision following the stress of Potter’s trial and conviction.
“Some say I should forgive to be at peace but how can I? I am so angry. She is going to be able to watch her kids have kids and be able to touch them,” Katie Wright told CNN. “I am always scared I am going to forget my son’s voice. It gave us some sense of peace knowing she would not be able to hold her sons. She has two. I can’t hold my son.”
She said Potter not being able to serve as a police officer again, due in part to her conviction, has given her “a sense of peace.”
“She will never be able to hurt anybody as a police officer again,” Katie Wright said. “That is the only sense of peace we get as a family.”
Potter wept when she testified during her 2021 trial, apologizing and insisting she “didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
“I was very distraught. I just shot somebody. I’m sorry it happened,” Potter cried as a prosecutor asked her about her behavior moments after the fatal shooting. Potter testified she had been trained with a Taser since 2002 and testified she received a new model days before the April 11, 2021 shooting.
The city of Brooklyn Center agreed to pay a $3.25 million settlement to the family of Daunte Wright in June 2022. The Wright family said the payment still has not been distributed due to other unrelated legal disputes but they are “hopeful” to receive payment in the next 90 days.
Part of the settlement agreement requires Brooklyn Center Police officers undergo implicit bias training. The city’s newly elected mayor, April Graves, confirmed that training still hasn’t happened, though, she says, it’s in the works.
Wright was killed just as the high-profile trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was ultimately convicted of murdering George Floyd, was underway only about 10 miles away. Floyd’s death spurred outrage across the country with protests in many major cities – as well as some international locales – to decry police brutality and racial injustice.
Soon after Wright’s death, the Brooklyn Center City Council approved “The Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution,” which said the city would create an unarmed department to handle “all incidents where a city resident is primarily experiencing a medical, mental health, disability-related, or other behavioral or social need.”
The resolution, which passed in 2021, was also named after Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old man living with autism, was also killed by Brooklyn Center Police after his family called 911 for help in 2019.
The measure also said officers would not be able to make arrests or conduct searches for many lower-level offenses, including stops for non-moving traffic infractions.
It was introduced by the city’s former mayor, Mike Elliott.
“It was easy to get it passed but we still haven’t implemented anything and here we are two years later,” Katie Wright said. “It is roadblock after roadblock.”
Mayor Graves told CNN the city is moving forward but “not as fast” as some in the community would like. She said the resolution “was crafted and written by the former mayor without the input of any staff or council members.”
Graves, who was a city council member when the resolution passed in 2021, said the city council, which now has two new members since the killing of Wright, will vote on new recommendations for the policy changes in May. She added that last year the city held two town halls on policy recommendations. Another town hall was held Saturday.
“There were some things within that resolution that just weren’t feasible,” Graves said, noting they only have about 35,000 residents and while they have “big city problems,” the council is working with a “small city budget.”
“Creating three new departments was just not conceivable,” Graves added. “One of those departments that he called for was around a department of violence prevention or something along those lines. Our new office of community prevention, health and safety is aligned with those things.”
Meanwhile, Graves said if the proposed traffic stop changes and consent searches are approved by the city council, officers would not be allowed to pull people over solely for minor traffic offenses, like invalid or expired registration, excessive window tints, and broken headlights or tail lights. She also said the current recommendations allow officers to pull someone over if a minor traffic offense could lead to serious damage.
“I think if we’re able to actually vote on and approve these recommendations around consent searches and pre-emptive stops … it would bring down the likelihood of having these issues come up again,” Graves said, adding “community feedback is important.”
In the last 18 months, Graves said the city has seen turnover in the police department and other city offices. The department, now led by its first Black chief, Kellace McDaniel, has 42 sworn police officers on patrol. Graves said the department is fully staffed at 49 officers. The city also “lost six out of seven department directors” but was able to rehire for those roles, including an equity and human resources director, Graves said.
“When I first started, it was difficult to even have a resolution around racial equity but now, we have funding and staff trying to do that work internally and externally with the community,” Graves said. “I see definite changes. Government is slow. There’s definitely still a lot of obstacles, people’s fear and misunderstanding and, yes, bias getting in the way, but I think we have the right people in place to keep it moving forward.”
Katie Wright and her husband, Aubrey, say they will continue to push for change. A red urn holding their son’s ashes sits above a fireplace in their living room.
“Changing traffic stops is the only thing that is going to keep people safe. We need it in every city,” Katie Wright said. “I am not going to be quiet.”