Prosecutor in Daunte Wright's death not swayed by critics

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FILE - This booking photo released by the Hennepin County, Minn., Sheriff shows Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer. Prosecutor Pete Orput will be handling the case against Potter, who is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021 in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. (Hennepin County Sheriff via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS – The day Daunte Wright was laid to rest, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside prosecutor Pete Orput's suburban home and, with microphones and a loudspeaker, demanded he file murder charges against the police officer who killed the 20-year-old Black motorist.

Orput, wearing a hoodie and khakis, stepped outside and attempted to explain why he had filed a manslaughter charge instead. After some arguing, Orput — visibly frustrated — finally ended it.

“I choose not to," Orput said of filing a murder charge. He thanked the group for being peaceful but said: “I won't give in to this.”

Wright was fatally shot April 11 by Kim Potter, who is white, during a traffic stop in suburban Brooklyn Center. Potter's body camera recorded her shouting “Taser! Taser!” before she fired, and the city’s former police chief said he believed she meant to use her stun gun.

People who know Orput, a former Marine who served in Vietnam before becoming a lawyer, describe him as fearless and willing to stand up for what he thinks is right.

He's “the kind of guy you want in the foxhole with you,” said Fred Bruno, a Minneapolis defense attorney. Bruno also described Orput as “very sensitive” and someone who “listens to all sides.”

Orput is just the latest prosecutor to feel the heat from activists who argue that killings of Black people by police are not charged seriously enough.

When George Floyd died in Minneapolis after being pinned by police last year, protesters hammered Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman for taking four days to file charges and then charging only Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the case, adding a second-degree murder charge against Chauvin and charging the other three officers.