Kim Potter trial: Defence tries to shift blame on to Daunte Wright saying ‘all he had to do was surrender’

Black 20-year-old was killed by police in April, apparently after police officer mistakenly fired handgun instead of taser

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 09 December 2021 00:39
Daunte Wright's mom describes phone call during deadly traffic stop
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Former police officer Kim Potter “betrayed her badge” this April when she accidentally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburbs instead of tasing him, prosecutors argued during day one of her manslaughter trial.

“This case is about the defendant Kimberly Potter betraying her badge and betraying her oath and betraying her position of public trust,” prosecutor Erin Eldridge argued before a Minneapolis jury on Wednesday. “And on April 11 of this year, she betrayed a 20-year-old kid. She pulled out her firearm. She pointed it at his chest. She shot and killed Daunte Wright.”

The defence, meanwhile, claimed that officers would’ve been justified in using deadly force on Mr Wright, who tried to slip out of handcuffs and drive away, and was wanted on a misdemeanor weapons charge.

“All he had to do was surrender. … All he had to do was stop, and he’d still be with us,” defence attorney Paul Engh told the court. “[Kim Potter] made a mistake. This was an accident. She’s a human being. She had to do what she had to do to prevent a death to a fellow officer.”

Police officers in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, pulled over Mr Wright on 11 April, after noticing he had expired licence plates and an air freshener hanging from his window, an infraction. Once they ran the plates, they learned Mr Wright had an active warrant for a weapons charge and moved to arrest him.

Brooklyn Center police officer Anthony Luckey testified that Mr Wright began trying to evade his grasp, even after warning the young man not to resist, and saying, “Don’t do it, bro.”

A physical struggle ensued between the three arresting officers and Mr Wright, and Ms Potter, a 26-year police veteran, warned that she would tase the 20-year-old before instead shooting him at close range with a pistol.

The killing, yet another police slaying involving a white officer and Black man during a minor stop, occurred just miles away from downtown Minneapolis, where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial this spring for murdering George Floyd in May 2020, setting off a passionate round of racial justice protests.

During Wednesday’s trial, Daunte Wright’s mother Katie Bryan testified about how that day was the “worst day of my life.” She described how her son had called her in a panic when he had been pulled over, before the call dropped. She later video-called Mr Wright’s passenger in the car and saw her son dead.

“I didn’t want to believe that it was my son laying there on the ground, but I could tell it was him because of his tennis shoes,” Ms Bryant said tearfully.

Prosecutors are seeking both first- and second-degree manslaughter charges against Ms Potter, who resigned from the force shortly after the shooting.

They argue that her police career, longer than Mr Wright’s entire life, included multiple trainings with her stun gun, including two sessions in the six months before the shooting. The training, they suggested, included lessons on how “to learn the differences between their Taser and firearm to avoid such confusion.”

The first day of the trial focused on the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

“I grabbed the wrong f****ing gun!” Ms Potter was heard saying in body camera footage played for the court, before collapsing in tears on the ground.

She can be heard saying: “I’m going to go to prison.”

Officer Luckey tries to comfort her, saying: “No you’re not.”

Another officer adds: “Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car.”

Prosecutors argue that in her distress following the shooting, Ms Potter didn’t try to offer Daunte Wright first aid or call for medical assistance, or describe her error to the large group of armed officers who arrived at the 20-year-old’s crashed car.

Kimberly Potter is expected to testify during the trial, which officials have said will likely conclude by the end of December.

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