A veteran former Minnesota police officer has been sentenced to two years in prison over the fatal shooting of a black motorist last April.
In December, a jury convicted Kim Potter, 49, of manslaughter after she killed Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop.
He was shot dead when she mistakenly fired her gun instead of her Taser.
The Wright family criticised the sentence as “a slap on the wrist”.
Relatives had earlier delivered emotional victim impact statements calling for Potter to face the maximum possible sentence of 15 years.
Wright’s mother Katie said she could never forgive Potter, claiming the ex-officer never once said her son’s name during the trial.
“She referred to Daunte over and over again as ‘the driver’ as if killing him wasn’t enough to dehumanise him,” she said through tears.
A distraught Potter addressed the Wright family in court – turning to face them directly – before her sentence was handed down.
“You said that I didn’t look at you during the trial. I don’t believe I had a right to,” she said.
“I didn’t even have a right to be in the same room with you. I am so sorry that I hurt you so badly and my heart is devastated for all of you.”
As she read out her sentencing decision on Friday, Judge Regina Chu described it as “one of the saddest cases I’ve had in my 20 years on the bench”.
Prosecutors initially sought a sentence of seven years in prison – the presumed penalty under the state’s guidelines – but Judge Chu ruled that there were not aggravating factors in this case.
She said she had been “profoundly moved by the comments of the Wright family” and knew that the lighter sentence would be a disappointment to many in the community.
The former officer will spend 16 months behind bars and serve the rest of her sentence under supervised release.
Potter must be held accountable for her reckless actions, the judge said, but ultimately Daunte Wright’s death had been a “tragic mistake”. She added that she believed Potter was remorseful.
Potter and a trainee officer pulled Wright over on April 11, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis.
Police claimed Wright had expired licence plate tags and an air freshener unlawfully hanging from his vehicle’s rear view mirror. During the traffic stop, they found he had an outstanding warrant on a weapons violation.
Potter’s defence team claimed the shooting took place as Wright was resisting arrest. Police bodycam footage shows Potter repeatedly yelling “Taser” before firing a single shot from her pistol.
After the sentencing, the Wright family said they were “very disappointed” by the outcome.
“I walked out of this courthouse feeling like people are laughing at us because this lady got a slap on the wrist,” Wright’s father, Arbuey, told reporters.
“Kim Potter murdered my son. He died April 11,” Katie Wright added. “Today, the justice system murdered him all over again.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that he accepted the judge’s sentencing and urged the community to do the same.
“I don’t ask you to agree with her decision, which takes nothing away from the truth of the jury’s verdict,” he said.
Daunte Wright’s death occurred at a time of high tensions in Minneapolis, with the trial over George Floyd’s murder taking place nearby. (BBC)