Fact Check

Is This Post About Kim Potter, Ex-Cop Who Shot Daunte Wright, True?

Potter resigned from the suburban Minneapolis police force two days after Wright's death.

Published Apr 13, 2021

BRUCE BISPING ¥ bbisping@startribune.com Brooklyn Center, MN., Thursday, 5/31/2007.  Officer Kim Potter, part of the Brooklyn Center Police negotiation team. (Photo by Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center Police Department (BCPD) officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, served 26 years with the agency, led a union representing its officers, and once told two colleagues to deactivate their body cameras after they killed someone in 2019.

On April 13, 2021, the white Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a 20-year-old Black man named Daunte Wright during a traffic stop two days earlier resigned from law enforcement.

Meanwhile, rumors about her policing career in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center spread rapidly online, including a claim that she once directed colleagues to deactivate their body-worn cameras shortly after they shot and killed a 21-year-old man in 2019.

Among sources of that allegation and others was Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who is representing Wright's relatives and other several other families alleging wrongful use of force by police against Black Americans, including the kin of George Floyd. Hours before the officer in Wright's case resigned, Crump posted on his social media channels:

In other words, Crump attempted to discredit the story of former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who said the officer who killed Wright mistakenly grabbed her handgun instead of a stun gun and accidentally fired lethal shots. (After making that claim, Gannon, too, resigned from the police department.)

The attorney alleged the following:

  • The former police officer who fatally shot Wright is named Kim Potter.
  • Potter's career with the Brooklyn Center Police Department spanned 26 years.
  • Potter was first licensed as a police officer about six years before Wright was born.
  • Potter was the president of the union representing Brooklyn Center police officers.
  • Shortly after Brooklyn Center officers shot and killed 21-year-old Kobe Dimock-Heisler in 2019, she instructed two of them to leave the scene in separate squad cars, turn off their body-worn cameras to prevent the existence of video footage depicting their actions, and stay silent.

While no evidence definitively confirmed or debunked Crump's underlying assertion that the police officer "knew exactly what she was doing" when she killed Wright, the above-listed statements were factual -- including the assertion regarding the aftermath of Dimock-Heisler's death. Below we lay out evidence, including government records, to substantiate that conclusion.

But, first, let us lay out the facts of Wright's death. Before his resignation, Gannon told reporters that officers initially pulled him over for expired license license-plate tags and, when they ran his name through their background software, they realized he had a warrant for his arrest. (Minnesota court records obtained by Snopes showed a judge issued a warrant for Wright weeks earlier, on April 2, after he missed a court appearance. He was facing two misdemeanor charges after Minneapolis police cited him in June 2020 for carrying a pistol without a permit and trying to evade their orders.)

Moments before his death, the officers' body-camera footage showed police approaching his vehicle from different sides, as Wright moved in the driver's seat. Then, he was shot, and police said his car drove several blocks before crashing into another vehicle nearby.

Soon afterwards, the state agency that investigates police officers' use of deadly force (the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) issued a statement identifying the officer as Kim Potter.

Additionally, that document confirmed she began her career with the Brooklyn Center Police Department 26 years ago, or in 1995. Citing state records, The Star Tribune reported she was first licensed as a Minnesota officer that year, too, at age 22.

With that information, we reached out to the medical examiner's office in Hennepin County, where the shooting occurred, to determine Wright's birthdate. A representative confirmed he was born on Oct. 27, 2000. Based on that evidence, it was true that Potter was roughly five or six years into her policing career when Wright was born, pending her exact start date in 1995.

Next, it was also accurate that Potter headed the local union representing police officers in the suburb of about 30,000 residents on Minneapolis' northwestern border.

According to multiple reputable news organizations, including The Washington Post, the Brooklyn Center Police Officer's Association elected her president in 2019. Also, Potter was a member of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, where she served on the “casket team," per that organization's records analyzed by Snopes.

As a union leader, Potter indeed advised two Brooklyn Center police officers, Cody Turner and Brandon Akers, on how to act after killing Dimock-Heisler on Aug. 31, 2019, according to a report from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. It read

"Officer Kim Potter [...] was among the first to arrive. As she arrived, officers were still securing the scene so that Mr. Dimock-Heisler could receive medical treatment. Officer Potter instructed Officers Turner and Akers to exit the residence, get into separate squad cars, turn off their body worn cameras, and to not talk to each other."

No verified evidence determined exactly why Potter gave those directions, and all possible motivations were speculative.

In the end, the county attorney's office determined Turner's and Akers' use of deadly force in that incident was justified (the officers claimed Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old on the autism spectrum, rushed at them with a knife and threatened their lives) and did not file charges against them, per county records.

Flash forward less than two years, on April 11, 2021, when body camera footage recorded Potter yelling "Holy shit! I shot him," after firing a single round in Wright's direction. The medical examiner deemed his death a homicide and said he died from a gunshot wound in his chest.

Brian Peters, head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, told The Star Tribune that Potter was working as a field-training officer, training a new officer, during the shift. Initially, she was placed on administrative leave, and protests calling for her termination and justice for Wright's family rocked the Minneapolis area. 

In her one-paragraph letter of resignation to Brooklyn Center officials on April 13, Potter wrote: “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.”

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.

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