A suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for a Taser was led away in handcuffs Thursday after a jury found her guilty of manslaughter in the death of Black motorist Daunte Wright.
The mostly white jury deliberated for about 27 hours over four days before finding former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. Potter, 49, who is white, faces about seven years in prison under the state’s sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer term.
It has been rare to charge police with crimes in civilian deaths, and rarer still for them to be convicted. Here’s a look at other high-profile killings by police and the outcome of the cases:
Eric Garner, 43, died in July 2014 in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold when Garner, who was Black, refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December of that year. The Justice Department said in 2019 that it wouldn’t file civil rights charges after a yearslong investigation.
Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, touching off weeks of sometimes violent protests. A St. Louis County grand jury declined later that year to indict Wilson in the unarmed Black teen’s death, and the U.S. Department of Justice later also declined to charge him. Wesley Bell, the current St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence and announced in July that he would not charge Wilson.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 16 times at Laquan McDonald, killing the Black 17-year-old as he walked away from officers in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the same day the city released the shocking dashcam video of the shooting. Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2018 and sentenced to nearly seven years in prison.
Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer in November 2014 after officers responded to a 911 call from a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus who said a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. Tamir, who was Black, had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot after the officers’ cruiser skidded to a stop just feet away. A grand jury in December 2015 declined to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, and training officer Frank Garmback. The U.S. Justice Department announced last year that it would not bring federal criminal charges, saying the quality of video of the shooting was too poor for prosecutors to establish what had happened.
Michael Slager, a white South Carolina police officer, shot Walter Scott in the back as the unarmed 50-year-old Black man fled following a 2015 traffic stop. In 2016, a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked over a verdict in Slager’s murder trial. The next year, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights and prosecutors dropped state murder charges. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a Baltimore police van, sparking weeks of unrest across the city. Six officers were charged in Gray’s death and arrest. Three were acquitted and Baltimore’s state attorney dropped the other cases. The U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2017 that it wouldn’t bring federal charges against the six officers involved in the arrest, saying it did not find enough evidence to prove the officers willfully violated Gray’s civil rights.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer during a 2016 traffic stop after Castile informed the officer he was armed. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Officer Jeronimo Yanez testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter.
JUSTINE RUSZCZYK DAMOND
Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed white dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, was fatally shot in 2017 by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape. Noor testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner’s life. He was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced in 2019 to 12 1/2 years in prison. The murder conviction was later overturned and Noor was resentenced on the manslaughter count to nearly five years in prison.
Roy Oliver, a white Texas police officer, fired at a car full of teenagers as it drove away from a large house party in April 2017, fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver was convicted of murder in the Black teen’s death in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died March 3, 2020 after he pleaded for breath under an officer’s knee in Tacoma, Washington. Ellis was Tasered, handcuffed and hogtied, with his face covered by a spit hood. A medical examiner said he died from lack of oxygen caused by restraint, with an enlarged heart and methamphetamine intoxication as contributing factors. Tacoma police officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder after witnesses reported they started beating Ellis without provocation. The officers say he attacked them. A third officer, Timothy Rankine, is charged with first-degree manslaughter for allegedly kneeling on Ellis’ back and shoulder as he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Rankine has pleaded not guilty.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical worker studying to become a nurse, was shot several times in her hallway after three plainclothes narcotics detectives busted down the door of her apartment in the middle of the night in March 2020. A grand jury brought no charges against officers in her death, although one was indicted for shooting into a neighboring home that had people inside. Prosecutors said two officers who fired at Taylor, who was Black, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend.
The dying gasps of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S. in generations. White former Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old man gasped that he couldn’t breathe and went limp on May 25, 2020.
Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, fell asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta in June 2020. Police body camera video showed him struggling with two white officers who told him he’d had too much to drink to drive and tried to arrest him. Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and fled, firing it at Officer Garrett Rolfe as he ran. Rolfe fired his gun, hitting Brooks twice in the back. Rolfe is charged with murder and was fired after the shooting, though that dismissal was reversed on the grounds the city hadn’t followed its procedures. The other officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath. Lawyers for both officers have said their clients acted appropriately.
CASEY GOODSON JR.
The Ohio sheriff’s deputy who shot Casey Goodson Jr. in the back five times pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless homicide charges in the Dec. 4, 2020 killing. Attorneys for defendant Jason Meade argue that, as a member of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force, Meade was acting as a federal agent at the time of the shooting. The shooting of the 23-year-old Goodson, who was Black, by Meade, a longtime deputy — now retired — who is white, led to protests in Columbus and many lingering questions, in part because the killing was not recorded on body or dash camera footage.
Hill, a 47-year-old Black man, was visiting a family friend when he was fatally shot by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio, in December as he emerged from a garage holding a cellphone. Officer Adam Coy was fired and has pleaded not guilty to murder and reckless homicide charges. The police chief was forced out and the city agreed to pay a $10 million settlement to Hill’s family.