Lauren Moye, FISM News
The defense has rested in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the veteran officer who shouted “taser” but then drew her firearm and shot a man. Closing remarks are set for Monday. The case has been one of many significant moments contributing to this year’s racial dialogues. The trial will ask jurors to decide if Potter’s use of force was justified, even if accidental, or if Potter’s training should have prevented the death of a man.
“I’m sorry it happened. I’m so sorry,” the 49-year-old Potter said during her time on the witness stand yesterday. She broke down into tears when discussing the moment she fired on 20-year-old Daunte Wright. “I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Potter, a former Minnesota officer with the Brooklyn Center police department, has pled not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter for the black man’s death. She faces maximum sentences of 15 and 10 years if convicted of these charges.
Wright was pulled over on April 11 of this year over an air freshener suspended from his rearview mirror and an expired tag. During the trial, Potter said it was the rookie officer she was training who decided to make the traffic stop. Potter claimed she would have chosen not to pull the car over, citing vehicle registration difficulties due to Covid-19.
Potter and the rookie learned that there was a misdemeanor weapons warrant out on Wright. Wright also had a restraining order placed on him by a woman and a female passenger in his car at the time.
When Wright resisted arrest and attempted to drive away, a third officer, Sergeant Mychal Johnson, attempted to hold the car’s gear shift in park from the passenger side of the vehicle. Potter then drew her service pistol and fired on Smith while shouting, “Taser, taser, taser!”
The police report reads that “one officer discharged their firearm, striking the driver. The vehicle traveled several blocks before striking another vehicle.”
“We were trying to keep him from driving away. It just went chaotic,” Potter testified.
Her defense lawyers have argued that the gun was a justified use of force even if it was an accidental discharge given the danger that Johnson was in. They also argued that the officers had a duty to verify the safety of the female passenger.
Because manslaughter charges do not require an intent to kill, the prosecutors only need to show that Potter recklessly handled her firearm for a conviction of manslaughter first-degree. “Culpable negligence” is sufficient grounds for second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors focused on Potter’s 26 years of experience and recent taser-related classwork as reasons why the wrong weapon should not have been drawn. Meanwhile, state assistant attorney general Erin Eldredge challenged that Potter drew her weapon out of concern for officers’ safety and that she neglected life-saving responsibilities in the moments after the shooting.
“After you shot Daunte Wright, you didn’t behave like someone who had just saved Sergeant Johnson’s life. Did you?” Eldridge cross-examined Potter.
Potter answered, “I was very distraught. I just shot somebody.”
Eldridge also asked, “You didn’t run down the street and try to save Daunte Wright’s life, did you?”
The former officer, who has previously testified to recalling very few details after realizing she shot Wright, responded, “No.”
Wright’s death occurred during tense racial dialogues due to Derek Chauvin’s trial over the death of George Floyd, which also occurred in Minnesota. Hundreds of rioters surrounded Brooklyn Center’s police headquarters in response. The riots continued for several days.