‘I didn’t want to hurt anybody’: Kim Potter breaks down on stand at trial over Daunte Wright shooting

The Brooklyn Center police officer testifies at her trial on charges of first degree and second degree manslaughter

Rachel Sharp
Friday 17 December 2021 17:59

Kim Potter breaks down on the stand at her trial

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Kim Potter broke down in tears and put her head in her hands on the witness stand as she apologised for shooting dead Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, back on 11 April.

The veteran police officer of 26 years gave emotional testimony at her manslaughter trial on Friday, where she sobbed on multiple occasions while recalling the events surrounding the fatal encounter.

“I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry,” she wailed, under cross-examination from the prosecution.

When prosecutors pressed her about whether she had intended to use deadly force that day, she cried out: “I didn’t want to hurt anybody!”

The 49-year-old told the court she was “very distraught” and couldn’t remember much about the moments following the shooting.

Prosecutors questioned whether she had acted “like someone who had saved someone’s life” pointing out that she didn’t check her colleagues were okay - after the defence sought to argue that she acted to save the lives of her fellow officers - and also did not try to render medical aid to Mr Wright.

“As a police officer you have a duty to render aid... you didn’t do any of those things? You stopped doing your job completely,” the prosecutor said.

Ms Potter replied: “I was very distraught, I just shot somebody. I’ve never done that.”

Earlier, under questioning from her defence team, Ms Potter described how a struggle broke out when Officer Anthony Luckey tried to arrest Mr Wright, saying the 20-year-old tried to get back inside his car.

She said the situation “went chaotic” and she saw “the driver” “struggling” over the gear shift with Sergeant Mychal Johnson.

“He had a look of fear on his face, it’s nothing I’ve seen before,” she said of Sergeant Johnson, as her voice began to break with emotion.

“We were struggling. We were trying to keep him from driving away. It just went chaotic.”

Ms Potter then began to sob as she described what happened next.

“And I remember yelling ‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’ and nothing happened and then he told me I shot him,” she wailed.

The former officer broke down sobbing and wiped her face with a tissue before her attorney asked if she could carry on.

She said yes and went on to say her memory was hazy over what she said and did next.

“I don’t remember what I said,” she said.

“They had an ambulance for me and I don’t know why and then I was at the station – I don’t remember a lot of things afterward.”

During her testimony, Ms Potter didn’t call the man she shot dead by his name, referring to him only as “the driver”.

Ms Potter has said she mistook her firearm for her Taser when she shot and killed the 20-year-old Black man

Body-camera footage played at the trial shows Ms Potter shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing one fatal shot which struck Mr Wright in the chest.

The 49-year-old is charged with first degree and second degree manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty.

The defence rested its case on Friday afternoon with jurors told to return for closing statements on Monday morning.

Ms Potter told the court that she and Officer Luckey had pulled Mr Wright over for a traffic stop for expired licence plate tags and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.

The veteran officer said she would “most likely not” have stopped the 20-year-old had she been working alone and not working as a field training officer at the time.

She said the expired tags and air freshener were the sort of minor violation that would “probably not” result in a stop. The Covid-19 pandemic had delayed many government functions by that point in the year, so many drivers had expired tags.

“An air freshener to me is just an equipment violation and during the high Covid times the Department of Motor Vehicles were so offline, people weren’t getting tags, and we were advised not to enforce those sorts of things because the tags just weren’t available,” she explained.

But, field training requires trainees to make “numerous contact” with the public throughout the day so they decided that Officer Luckey should initiate the stop.

After they pulled Mr Wright over, she said they found he was driving with a suspended licence, had an outstanding warrant for a weapons violation and a protective order against him by a woman.

Ms Potter said Officer Luckey also said he could smell marijuana in the car.

On learning this, the officers needed to arrest Mr Wright on the weapons warrant and also determine if the female passenger in the car was the woman with a protective order against him.

Kim Potter puts her head in her hands as she says she is ‘sorry for what happened’

Ms Potter told the court how she majored in criminal justice and sociology at school with an emphasis on geriatrics.

She was then sworn in as a police officer at Brooklyn Center Police Department in 1995.

During her career, she said she worked in various roles including as a crisis negotiator and across the domestic abuse program.

She said she had never received training on “weapons confusion” throughout her career.

“It would be mentioned in training, but it wasn’t something we physically trained on,” she said.

Ms Potter also said she had been given the new Taser on 26 March - just over two weeks before the shooting.

She testified that her old Taser was all yellow whereas the new Taser was yellow and black and that she had been trained in the use of Tasers since 2002.

Prosecutors showed the court photos of both the Taser and her firearm. They pointed out how on Ms Potter’s duty belt, her gun and her Taser were on separate sides, made of separate materials, and were meant to be drawn with the right and left hand respectively, using two different mechanisms.

The gun leaves its leather holster by rocking forward, the former officer agreed, while the Taser leaves its plastic sheath going backwards.

Slow-motion analysis of police body camera video during the trial showed Ms Potter drawing her gun with her right hand and pointing it into Mr Wright’s chest at close range.

The former officer became emotional once again as questioning on cross-examination continued, tearfully attempting to answer questions about the moments leading up to the shooting before Judge Regina Chu called for a lunch break to give Ms Potter time to compose herself.

Daunte Wright with his toddler son

The prosecution rested its case on Thursday after bringing more than dozen witnesses including a use of force expert who said Ms Potter was not justified in her use of deadly force.

“The use of deadly force was not appropriate and the evidence suggests a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” testified University of South Carolina School of Law professor Seth Stoughton.

Prosecutors have argued that Ms Potter “betrayed her badge” and “betrayed a 20-year-old kid” when she shot and killed the Black father-of-one.

The defence’s case began on Thursday, with Ms Potter’s former police chief Tim Gannon testifying that, after reviewing footage of the shooting, he saw “no violation” of “policy, procedure or law”.

Mr Gannon resigned from his position just two days after the shooting – the same day Ms Potter handed in her resignation.

Ms Potter’s legal team indicated at the start of the trial that she would testify in her defence and, on Thursday, the former police officer confirmed that she still planned to do so.

The death of the Black man at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota came at a time when another white police officer was on trial for the killing of another Black man in the city.

Just days later, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020 after he knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest over a counterfeit $20 bill.

Both deaths sparked nationwide protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality against Black people.

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