Minnesota Officer Charged With Manslaughter

Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter this afternoon. As you no doubt know, she tried to tase Daunte Wright as Wright was fighting with two other officers, and inadvertently pulled her Glock instead of her taser.

This is the relevant statute:

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:
(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; or
(2) by shooting another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon as a result of negligently believing the other to be a deer or other animal; or
(3) by setting a spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device; or
(4) by negligently or intentionally permitting any animal, known by the person to have vicious propensities or to have caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, to run uncontrolled off the owner’s premises, or negligently failing to keep it properly confined; or
(5) by committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.378 (neglect or endangerment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.
If proven by a preponderance of the evidence, it shall be an affirmative defense to criminal liability under clause (4) that the victim provoked the animal to cause the victim’s death.

I have a hard time seeing how this statute applies to Officer Potter’s case. The only potentially applicable subpart is (1), but that provision requires that the defendant “consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” I don’t doubt that Potter’s shooting Wright with the wrong tool was negligent, but there is no reason to think that she consciously took a chance of causing death or great injury to Wright. The taser would not have done so. Maybe this is why the Wright family and its representatives have denied that Potter’s shooting of Wright was inadvertent, even though the body cam video clearly shows that it was.

Meanwhile, lawlessness rages in Minnesota. There is every reason to believe that rioters would burn down Potter’s house if given the opportunity. Thus, Potter’s home has been placed under guard, even though her family reportedly has moved away:

Law enforcement on Tuesday erected concrete barricades and tall metal fencing around the perimeter of Potter’s multilevel home in Champlin. Two police cars guarded the driveway behind fortified fences marked with signs reading “Caution: Lasers in Use.” Her street was lined with paper “No Parking” signs and blocked to nonresidential traffic. Motorists entering the area were greeted by a buzzing cellphone alert from local police to “expect protest activity in your neighborhood over the next few days.”

Some have analogized officer Potter’s inadvertent shooting of Daunte Wright to Mohammed Noor’s shooting of Justine Damond, for which Noor is now serving a prison term. But the cases are very different. Noor’s shooting of Damond was intentional, if inexplicable. Moreover, Damond was entirely innocent, while Potter accidentally shot Wright in the context of a chaotic situation that Wright created by resisting arrest and attempting to flee the scene. Nevertheless, a criminal prosecution of Kimberley Potter will proceed, and if she is not jailed, riots and arson no doubt will ensue.

I am not sure how police departments in places like Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center intend to find new police officers, as well as replacements for those who are quitting and retiring in droves. But I guess if you are in favor of defunding the police that isn’t a problem. It is the rest of us who will suffer.

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