What Is Second-Degree Manslaughter? Kim Potter's Charge Over Daunte Wright Shooting Explained

Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, could face up to 10 years in prison or a payment fine of up to $20,000—or both.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, manslaughter is defined as "the unlawful killing of a human being without malice" under Section 1112 of Title 18.

"Manslaughter is of two kinds: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine under Title 18, or both, and involuntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment for not more than six years, a fine under Title 18, or both," the department says.

The Revisor's Office of the Minnesota Legislature explains: "A person who causes the death of another" 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" is guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Such a person "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," the office says.

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, died on Sunday after he was shot by Potter during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis.

According to the criminal complaint, Brooklyn Center police officer Anthony Luckey, who was with Potter at the time of the incident, "checked Wright's identification and determined he had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge," the statement from the Washington County Attorney's Office said.

Police officials previously said Potter, who had been with the department for 26 years, had mistaken her gun for a Taser.

According to the complaint, "At 2:02 [local time], Potter said 'Taser, Taser, Taser,' and pulled the trigger on her handgun at 2:02:01, firing one round into the left side of the victim," the statement said.

On Monday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office determined Wright "died of a gunshot wound and the death was a homicide," according to the statement.

Potter was taken into custody by the agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She was taken to jail where she will await her first court appearance in the shooting death of Wright, the Washington County Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

Other offenses counting as second-degree manslaughter

Other means by which a person who causes the death of another is guilty of second-degree manslaughter include the following, as outlined by the Revisor's Office:

  • 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;
  • By setting a spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device;
  • 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;
  • 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.
Protesters Brooklyn Center Police Station April 2021
Demonstrators face off with sheriff deputies during a protest at the Brooklyn Center police station in Minnesota on April 14 following the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright. Scott Olson/Getty Images