News Brief: Manslaughter Charges, I-G Report, U.S. Mulls Sanctions On Russia
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The criminal complaint against a Minnesota police officer gives a second-by-second timeline of the killing of Daunte Wright.
NOEL KING, HOST:
And that timeline shows just how quickly a traffic stop turned into chaos - 12 seconds. At 2:01 p.m. and 49 seconds, Daunte Wright was out of his car and being arrested. He pulled away from the officers and climbed into his car. Six seconds later, Officer Kim Potter warned him that she would fire a Taser. At exactly 2:02 p.m., she warned him again; one second later, she shot him - not with a taser, of course, but with a gun. Now she faces second-degree manslaughter charges, and she's scheduled to appear in court this afternoon.
INSKEEP: NPR's David Schaper is covering all this in Minneapolis. David, good morning.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: And what does the second-degree manslaughter charge mean?
SCHAPER: Well, it's a pretty serious felony. And if convicted, Kimberly Potter could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $20,000. But it's also one of those charges that even if convicted, you could simply get probation and no jail time depending on the circumstances and what the jury or judge decides.
INSKEEP: Oh, yeah, I saw this. It's either prison time or even a fine. Right.
SCHAPER: Yeah. So the criminal complaint alleges that the former Brooklyn Center police officer, Kimberly Potter, caused the death of Daunte Wright by her culpable negligence. And in that, she apparently mistakenly fired her gun at Wright when she intended to use her Taser. And, you know, some police officials have called the shooting unintentional, but prosecutors don't have to prove intent to convict of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota. So the prosecutor who's handling this case says, you know, this is an action that caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright, and this officer must be held accountable.
INSKEEP: How are people responding, given these charges now in the very same metropolitan area where the Derek Chauvin trial is continuing?
SCHAPER: Well, you know, there's a lot of frustration here right now. And it's not just these two cases, Daunte Wright and George Floyd. There have been several other police misconduct cases, shootings and killings in recent years. And we're certainly paying attention to all of it going on all around the country. So there is a palpable sort of sense of frustration among people who have been out protesting and even in the general community at large, I feel, because of the way these cases have been handled in the past. You know, some feel this criminal charge itself is not serious enough. Others are calling for deeper systemic changes in policing to sort of avoid these confrontations in the first place and to eliminate what many say is a built-in racial bias in policing. Here in Minnesota last summer after George Floyd's death, there was a lot of momentum behind efforts to radically change policing. And some modest changes did pass, but most others didn't. Toshira Garraway founded an organization called Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence here in Minnesota. And here's what she had to say.
TOSHIRA GARRAWAY: We was in those legislative roles, and they wouldn't pass the bills. We was out here with our boots on the ground. Our families who have already lost loved ones have been fighting, and they did not listen to us. And that is why Daunte is gone today.
INSKEEP: What are you hearing from Daunte Wright's family?
SCHAPER: Well, we haven't heard directly from the family since the second-degree manslaughter charge was filed, but we do expect to maybe later today. But the family wasn't buying the argument even before this, that the shooting was simply a tragic and unfortunate mistake. The attorneys for the Wright family issued a statement that says, quote, "This shooting was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force." They say the 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a Taser and a firearm.
INSKEEP: David, thanks.
SCHAPER: My pleasure, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Schaper.
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INSKEEP: President Biden is expected to announce sanctions on Russia today.
KING: Yeah, it's in response to a massive Russian hacking campaign of U.S. federal agencies, as well as election interference and other offenses over the past few years. The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets report that the U.S. will expel Russian diplomats and restrict Russia's access to U.S. banks. We should note, though, the White House hasn't confirmed those details to NPR just yet.
INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam is here with what we know so far. Jackie, good morning.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Why would President Biden do this, and why now?
NORTHAM: Well, you know, as you say, there's no official word from the administration yet, so there are still a few areas that are unclear. But there are a number of reasons that the sanctions could be imposed. And one is for retaliation for the SolarWinds attack. And if you remember, this is a massive cyber breach that was discovered late last year. You know, it hit just an untold number of U.S. public and private entities. It was huge. And U.S. intelligence agencies found that it was aimed at mining government secrets here and that the Russians were responsible. There's interference in U.S. elections in the past, and that includes presidential elections. Russians have placed bounties on U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. So there's a number of things. It's believed that these new sanctions could include anywhere - we're hearing from a dozen people up to about 30, and that includes government officials and intelligence officers, along with some businesses. And it's also expected that some Russian diplomats and other officials will be expelled from the U.S.
INSKEEP: Put this news into context for us because weren't Biden and Vladimir Putin talking on the phone just the other day?
NORTHAM: Right. I mean, this is, you know, two leaders trying to figure out a new relationship, you know, once Biden is in office. And so Biden really has to, you know, try to balance this situation in dealing with Russia. As you say, you know, Biden phoned Putin earlier this week as a way to, you know, quote-unquote, "de-escalate" tensions between the two countries. And that really has to do with Russia's buildup along its military with Ukraine's border. At the same time, he warned him that the U.S. would take action for Russian involvement in the U.S. election. And that was the readout that we got. I'm sure there was a lot of other stuff involved in that call as well. But, you know, Biden also offered to meet Putin in a third country and plan to talk about the things that they do get - do agree on. So, you know, these sanctions show that it's a pretty tight rope that Biden is trying to walk right now. And by the way, Moscow has said already that, you know, it's warning that it will retaliate for these sanctions.
INSKEEP: Aren't we already in a situation where Russia is making some threatening moves?
NORTHAM: Oh, well, definitely, yes. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, Russia is massing thousands of his troops along the border with Ukraine - seen as really provocative action. That's increasing tension in that region. So that's just one of the things. You know, the U.S. talked about sending in warships into the Black Sea, but that plan seems to have been dropped right now. So we're just going to have to see how this plays out and especially once these sanctions are imposed.
INSKEEP: Hey, Jackie, thanks for the update, really appreciate it.
NORTHAM: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam.
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INSKEEP: OK, intelligence failures and a reactionary posture are among the reasons why U.S. Capitol Police officers were not ready for the January 6 attack.
KING: So says Michael Bolton, the agency's inspector general. His new report details internal problems with the agency, including its own leadership. Here's Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, whose committee oversees the Capitol Police.
TIM RYAN: I mean, these men and women were betrayed by their leadership and put in an unwinnable situation. And now we're dealing with the fallout of that.
KING: Bolton will testify before a panel of lawmakers today.
INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us now. Claudia, good morning.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, betrayed by their leadership - that's a pretty strong phrase. What does the report find?
GRISALES: Yes. Bolton said the agency has functioned as a traditional police department, as a reactive force, but it must now shift to one of a protective role for the Capitol. Bolton said officers were hindered by leadership directives that day not to use certain weapons that are used to disperse crowds such as sting ball or flash grenades and not prioritizing its civil disturbance unit, which responds to these kinds of emergencies. Officers were also ill-prepared with equipment that was old or improperly stored, such as riot shields that shattered upon impact from the attackers on January 6. The chair of the House Administration Committee, California Representative Zoe Lofgren, called for today's hearing after a briefing with Bolton and said his findings were, quote, "detailed and disturbing."
INSKEEP: What does the inspector general find about the sort of failure of imagination to realize this attack was coming when so much information seemed to be known and even public in advance?
GRISALES: Well, he pointed to intelligence. He says Capitol Police have had a fragmented approach to handling intelligence. And as a result, they overlooked alarming details in their own analysis before January 6, including that Trump supporters saw that day as their last chance to overturn the election and a sense of desperation and disappointment could fuel violence, noting that, quote, "Congress itself is the target on the 6." Their analysis also said there was social media posts sharing details about the Capitol's tunnel system. I talked to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer about all this. Let's take a listen.
STENY HOYER: We had information. We didn't act on the information. We didn't prepare properly. We have been lulled to sleep for decades about this never happening.
GRISALES: And Hoyer went on to say, this report raises the stakes for Congress to take up a supplemental funding security bill later this month to better support these officers.
INSKEEP: I guess we should note the Capitol Police already have new leadership. How have they responded to the findings?
GRISALES: They do have a new acting chief for the force, but there are other leaders still in place. And the agency's top officials in all said the changes are underway, such as streamlining the process for gathering and sharing intelligence. And they're looking to replace equipment. They've just been delayed by the pandemic, but they acknowledge there's still work to be done. That said, as we heard Ryan say at the top, there's distrust here. And while this is an extensive look, this is just the beginning.
RYAN: Because there's going to be more reports, more criticism, more finger-pointing, more process, more arrests to the people who perpetrated the crime on January 6.
GRISALES: And the agency is facing a lot of work and needs help from Congress to climb out of this.
INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thank you so much.
GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.