The trial of a former Minnesota police officer for the shooting death of an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop with emotional testimony from the young man’s mother.
Ex-Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, 49, was charged with second degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, the father of a 3-year-old boy, as CrimeOnline previously reported. In opening statements, prosecutors said Potter held her service revolver aimed at Wright for five seconds before pulling the trigger, while defense attorneys said she mistook her service weapon for a Taser, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, testified that the car her son was driving on April 11 was registered to his older brother Dallas but had been given to Wright a few weeks earlier. She said he asked for $50 that day for gas and to have the vehicle detailed, then drove off. When officers pulled him over a short time later, he called her through Facetime Messenger.
“I heard the police officer come up to the vehicle and ask him to step out and Daunte said, ‘For what, am I in trouble?'” she said. The officer told Wright to put the phone down, then heard sounds of a struggle and someone say, “Don’t run.” Her son replied, “I’m not,” and the phone disconnected.
She tried to call several times more, then tried FaceTime, and a young woman answered.
“She was screaming and I said, ‘What’s wrong?'” Bryant said. “And she said, ‘They shot him,’ and she faced the phone toward the driver’s seat and my son was laying there, he was unresponsive and he looked dead.”
Bryant said she was eventually able to learn where the incident took place and rushed to the scene, recognizing Wright under a sheet because of his tennis shoes. Police body cam footage played in court shows her saying “You shot him why? Because he had a … warrant? Are you serious?”
The prosecution’s second witness was Brooklyn Center Officer Anthony Luckey, who actually made the traffic stop of Wright’s vehicle. He said he learned about the arrest warrant — Bryant testified she was unaware of a warrant — and asked Wright to get out of the car. He was compliant until Luckey tried to handcuff him, when a struggle ensued and Potter intervened.
“I heard Officer Potter say ‘I’m going to tase you,’ ” he testified. “I was trying to gain control of Daunte again, “I heard her say ‘I’m going to tase you.’ That’s when I heard ‘Taser! Taser’ ”
Then, he said, “that’s when I just heard a bang. … I just [saw] a flash and smoke.”
Wright was in the car again by that time, and the vehicle traveled a short distance before crashing.
“I realized what had happened and immediately seen Potter,” Luckey said. “She became hysterical, and that’s when she said she shot him.”
Extended body camera footage showed a hysterical Potter repeating “Oh my God!” while Luckey tells her, “Just breathe.”
In opening statements, prosecutors said the decision to be made by jurors isn’t whether Potter mistook her service revolver for a Taser, but rather should she have, given the training that police officers under go. Potter wore her Taser on the left and her gun on the right, prosecutor Erin Eldridge said, and she drew the firearm, more than twice the weight of a Taser, with her finger on the trigger.
“Evidence will show she flouted her training and flouted policy,” Eldridge said.
Defense attorney Paul Engh said that Potter believed she had a Taser in her hand and believed her partner was in danger.
“All [Wright] had to do was surrender, but that wasn’t his plan,” Engh said.
The trial is expected to continue into late December.
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