A mostly white jury heard opening statements and heart wrenching testimony on Wednesday, the first day of trial for former Minnesota officer Kim Potter in the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Potter faces first and second-degree murder charges for the fatal April 2021 traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb.
The shooting happened just miles away from the ongoing trial for former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who shot and killed George Floyd last May. Potter claims that she meant to pull her taser instead of the gun before she fatally shot Wright. According to USA Today, prosecutors are trying to prove that Potter acted “recklessly” and with “culpable negligence.”
“This case is about the defendant, Kim Potter, betraying her oath, betraying her badge, and betraying her trust,” Prosecutor Erin Eldridge said in her opening statement, according to USA Today. “She had been trained year after year after year to prevent this kind of thing from happening, but she did it anyway.”
The defense is planning to prove that the shooting was an unfortunate accident, according to ABC News.
Defense Attorney Paul Engh said that Potter had 26 years of gun training and was wearing a brand new stun gun. He also said that stun guns were introduced to the department 10 years ago. Potter claims that after Wright freed himself from an officer’s grip, she tried to tase him to stop him from getting in his vehicle. According to ABC, the lawyer says Potter feared that if Wright drove off, Sgt. Michael Johnson, her partner who was partially inside the car, would have been dragged along the road. Engh said that to flee arrest was a “crime of violence.”
“All he has to do is stop and he would be with us,” Engh told the jurors, according to ABC. “She can’t let him leave because he’s going to kill her partner.”
Following opening statements, the jury also heard emotional testimony from Wright’s mother, another version of the events from Brooklyn Center officer Anthony Luckey, who was on the scene, and watched new body camera footage.
Through tears, Katie Wright told the prosecution about the final moments that she saw her son.
He said that they were asking about insurance information, and she told him to hand the phone to the officer when he came to the window because the car was not protected by any insurance.
“He just sounded really nervous, but I reassured him that it would be okay,” she said.
She heard the police come back to the window, ask Daunte to step out of the vehicle and she heard him ask what he was in trouble for.
She heard a voice tell Daunte to put the phone down and hang up the phone, and heard Duante and the officers begin to scuffle. She said she was then disconnected.
“I was panicked. I called back, it seemed like 100 times but I believe was probably maybe four or five times and I kept calling so finally FaceTimed,” Bryant said. “I don’t know how much time lapsed, maybe a minute or two, and a female, [his girlfriend], answered the phone.”
“She was screaming. I was like, ‘what’s wrong?’ And she said that they shot him and she faced the phone toward the driver’s seat. My son was laying there. He was unresponsive and I heard somebody say ‘hang up the phone again,’” she tearfully recalled.
The prosecution showed video of Wright arriving on the scene, distraught and panicked.
Officer Luckey testified that Brooklyn Center officers undergo handgun and stun gun training so they won’t confuse their weapons. “The policy was: opposite side of your duty firearm,” Luckey said, according to ABC. “That way, officers do not get their firearms confused with their Tasers.”
He also said that Wright was respectful and never threatened the officers or show signs that he had a weapon. He testified that he was holding Wright when Potter yelled “Taser! Taser!”
“When she yelled, ‘Taser, Taser,’ that’s when I went back into the vehicle, realized that she said ‘Taser, Taser’ and right when I pulled back, that’s when the round went off,” he said.
In the new body camera footage of the incident, Potter was seen falling to the curb and hyperventilating moments after she shot Wright. Luckey and her partner tried to calm her down, but Potter was inconsolable. “I’m going to go to prison,” she said.