MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kim Potter, the Minnesota police officer who mistook her gun for a Taser and killed Daunte Wright in 2021, was released from prison early Monday.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections said Potter was set free around 4 a.m., the unannounced timing chosen “out of an abundance of caution.” The department confirmed Friday she would be released Monday but declined to say what time out of security concerns.
Potter, a white officer for the Brooklyn Center Police Department in suburban Minneapolis, fatally shot Wright, who was Black, during a traffic stop in April 2021. 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.
Potter, now 50, appeared much thinner in a new photo released last week by the Department of Corrections. Her attorney, Earl Gray, said he had “no idea” why her appearance had changed.
Potter was released from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee and will be on supervised release until Dec. 21, when her two-year term sentence for manslaughter expires. Corrections spokesman Andny Skoogman said in a news release that Potter will live in Wisconsin during the supervised release.
Minnesota law requires those sent to prison to serve two-thirds of their sentence behind bars and the remaining time on supervised release, Skoogman said. In Potter’s case, she served 16 months of her two-year sentence.
“The term of imprisonment is set by law; there is no parole board and no time off for good behavior,” Skoogman said.
The 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. Judge Chu said at the time that the case was not the same as other high-profile killings, including George Floyd’s death that resulted in a 22 1/2-year sentence for Chauvin.
“This is a cop who made a tragic mistake,” she said.
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.
Civil rights advocates say laws against hanging objects from rearview mirrors have been used as a pretext for stopping Black motorists.
Potter is heard on video yelling “Taser” several times just before she fires her pistol as Wright tried to drive away from the traffic stop.
Potter, a 26-year police veteran, apologized to Wright’s family at sentencing 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.”