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Kim Potter was sentenced to three years in prison. AP

Judge sentences US police officer who killed black motorist Daunte Wright to two years

Kim Potter was convicted in December of first- and second-degree manslaughter.

THE FORMER MINNEAPOLIS police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot Daunte Wright has been sentenced to two years in prison.

The sentence is a penalty below state guidelines after the judge found mitigating factors warranted a lesser sentence.

Kim Potter was convicted in December of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 killing of Mr Wright, a 20-year-old black motorist.

She was sentenced only on the more serious charge in accordance with state law.

For someone with no criminal history, such as Potter, the state guidelines on that charge range from slightly more than six years to about eight-and-a-half years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being just over seven years.

Prosecutors said the presumptive sentence was proper, but defence lawyers asked for a sentence below the guidelines, including a sentence of probation only.

Judge Regina Chu imposed the sentence after hearing from Mr Wright’s family and Potter.

Mr Wright’s mother said she will never be able to forgive Potter and would only refer to her as “the defendant” because Potter only referred to her 20-year-old son as “the driver” at trial.

“She never once said his name. And for that I’ll never be able to forgive you. And I’ll never be able to forgive you for what you’ve stolen from us,” a tearful Ms Wright said.

“A police officer who was supposed to serve and protect so much took so much away from us … My life and my world will never ever be the same again,” she said, adding later: “Daunte Demetrius Wright, I will continue to fight in your name until driving while black is no longer a death sentence.”

Mr Wright was killed after Brooklyn Centre officers pulled him over for having expired licence tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

The shooting, which came in the midst of Derek Chauvin’s trial on murder charges in George Floyd’s killing, sparked several days of demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Centre police station marked by tear gas and clashes between protesters and police.

Judge Chu said the lesser sentence was warranted because Potter was “in the line of duty and doing her job in attempting to lawfully arrest Daunte Wright” when she said she mistook her gun for her Taser.

And, Judge Chu said, Potter was trying to protect another officer who could have been dragged and seriously injured if Mr Wright drove away.

“This is this is one of the saddest cases I’ve had on my 20 years on the bench,” said Judge Chu, who also said she received “hundred and hundreds” of letters supporting Potter.

“On the one hand, a young man was killed and on the other a respected 26-year veteran police officer, made a tragic error by pulling her hand gun instead of her Taser.”

Press Association