A prosecutor said on Wednesday that he charged a white former Minneapolis police officer with second-degree manslaughter for killing black motorist Daunte Wright, 20, in a shooting that ignited days of unrest and clashes between protesters and police.
The charge against former Brooklyn Centre police officer Kim Potter was filed on Wednesday, three days after Wright was killed during a traffic stop, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said.
He was shot near the court where a murder trial for a former officer charged with killing George Floyd last May is being heard.
The former Brooklyn Centre police chief said Ms Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer, intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead.
However, protesters and Wright’s family said there was no excuse for the shooting and that it showed how the justice system was tilted against blacks.
They said Wright was stopped for an expired car registration and ended up dead.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” said Imran Ali, Washington County assistant criminal division chief, in announcing the charge.
“[Ms Potter’s] action caused the unlawful killing of Mr Wright and she must be held accountable.”
Mr Ali said he and Mr Orput had met Wright’s family and assured them that no resources would be spared in prosecuting the case.
Intent is not necessarily needed for a conviction of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota.
The charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, can be applied where a person is suspected of causing a death by “culpable negligence” that creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances to cause the death of a person.
Ms Potter, 48, was arrested on Wednesday morning at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St Paul. She and former police chief Tim Gannon resigned on Tuesday.
Concrete barricades and tall metal fencing had been set up around Ms Potter’s home in Champlin, north of Brooklyn Centre, with police cars guarding the driveway.
Mr Gannon had released Ms Potter’s body camera video the day after Sunday’s shooting.
It showed her approaching Wright as he stood outside his car as another officer was arresting him for an outstanding warrant.
The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit, during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
As Wright struggles with police, Ms Potter is heard shouting, “I’ll Tase you. I’ll Tase you. Taser, Taser, Taser,” before firing a single shot from her handgun.
The decision to charge her was announced as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd progresses.
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after Mr Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for several minutes.
The Wrights' lawyer, Ben Crump, said the family appreciated the criminal case, but again disputed that the shooting was accidental because an experienced officer knows the difference between a Taser and a handgun.
Police and protesters faced off again after nightfall on Tuesday, with hundreds of demonstrators gathering again at Brooklyn Centre’s police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence.
Police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch.
About 90 minutes before a 10pm curfew, state police announced over a loudspeaker that the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse.
That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters launching fireworks towards the station and throwing objects at police, who launched stun and gas grenades, then marched in a line to force back the crowd.
“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, saying that anyone who did not leave would be arrested.
State police said the dispersal order came before the curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police.
The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave the scene.
Brooklyn Centre, a suburb to the north of Minneapolis, has had its racial demographics shift dramatically in recent years.
In 2000, more than 70 per cent of the city was white. Today, most residents are black, Asian or Hispanic.
Mr Elliott said he did not have at hand information on the police force’s racial diversity but, “we have very few people of colour in our department".
Ms Potter was an instructor with the Brooklyn Centre police, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said.
She was training two other officers on Sunday when they stopped Wright, the association's leader, Bill Peters, told The Star Tribune.
In her one-paragraph letter of resignation, Ms Potter said: “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”