When she fatally shot Daunte Wright, a Minnesota police 'betrayed her badge,' the prosecutor claims as the trial begins.
Kim Potter faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in connection with Daunte Wright's death.
Kim Potter, a suburban Minneapolis police officer who claimed she drew her gun rather than her Taser when she fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright in April, began her manslaughter trial Wednesday, with a prosecutor stating that Potter had been trained to avoid such deadly mix-ups but still got it wrong.
Potter's attorney, on the other hand, contended that she made a mistake, noting that "police officers are human beings." And he appeared to blame Wright, claiming that all the 20-year-old had to do that day was surrender to authorities attempting to arrest him.
Potter, 49, shot and killed Wright during a traffic check in Brooklyn Center on April 11 in an incident seen on her body camera. Two days later, the white cop resigned.
Katie Bryant, Wright's mother, testified about the moment she found her son lying in his car following his shooting. She stated that she attempted to reach him through video call following the loss of an earlier phone connection. According to her, a woman responded and screamed, "They shot him!" as she pointed the phone at the driver's seat.
"And there was my son. He was unresponsive and appeared to be deceased "Bryant stated, tears streaming down his cheeks.
During his opening statement, defense attorney Paul Engh stated that Potter made a mistake when she grabbed the wrong weapon and shot Wright as he attempted to flee a traffic check while she and other police attempted to detain him.
He stated that Potter "had to do what she had to do to avert the death of a fellow officer" who reached inside Wright's car and risked being pulled away if Wright drove away.
Potter, 49, faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in connection with Wright's death.
According to the prosecution, Wright was unarmed.
Additionally, prosecutor Erin Eldridge stated earlier Wednesday that Potter broke her training and "betrayed a 20-year-old child." She stated that Potter had undergone considerable training, which included instruction on the dangers of firing the incorrect weapon.
"This is precisely what she had been educated to avoid for years," Eldridge explained. "However, on April 11, she cheated on Daunte Wright by betraying her badge."
Potter was carrying a Taser on her left side and a pistol on her right. Prosecutors argue that she received specific training on the dangers of catastrophic mix-ups.
"We have faith in their ability to discern wrong from right and left from right," Eldridge remarked. "This is a case with an officer who was aware not to get it completely wrong, yet she did."
Last Monday, a majority-white jury was seated.
Last April, the case triggered outraged demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Center police station. These demonstrations, during which demonstrators frequently battled with police officers dressed in riot gear, occurred just 16 kilometers away while former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin faced trial for the murder of George Floyd.
Potter states in the video, 'I grabbed the wrong pistol.'
According to a criminal complaint, Potter was training a rookie officer when they pulled Wright down for expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.
When they discovered that Wright was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant, they attempted to arrest him, but he refused to cooperate and returned to his car.
Potter's body camera captured her saying "Taser, Taser, Taser" and "I'll tase you" before firing her revolver once.
Eldridge showed the jury extended body-camera video from the shooting, including the moments immediately following Potter's killing of Wright.
Her camera caught her stating, "I just shot him" and "I got the incorrect [expletive] gun." Following Wright's car's departure, the footage shows Potter collapse to the curb and sit, saying "Oh my God!"
In court pleadings, defense counsel contended that her fast reaction bolsters their case that the shooting was a terrible accident.
Officer-in-training provides testimony
Anthony Luckey, the officer Potter was teaching that day, testified that he smelt marijuana and observed marijuana material on the car's console during the stop. Additionally, he stated that Wright lacked a valid driver's license and supplied an expired proof of insurance in another person's name.
There was an outstanding warrant for Wright's arrest on a firearms charge, Engh stated, which meant authorities were forced to arrest him.
Luckey stated that he suspected Wright of concealing a firearm in the car due to the outstanding warrant and his intuition. According to the prosecutor, Wright was unarmed.
Engh screamed as he pounded on the courtroom lectern, "A court of law directed him to arrest him."
Additionally, there was a restraining order against Wright, the defense attorney stated. He explained to jurors that it was no longer about expired tags at that moment and that authorities needed to ensure the woman in Wright's car was safe due to the restraining order.
He stated that this was routine police work and that Potter made a mistake.
"We are dealing with people," Engh stated. "Police officers are individuals. That is precisely what occurred."
However, the defense asserts that Potter was within her rights to use deadly force if she chose to do so knowingly in response to Wright's behavior endangering other officers on the site.
According to the prosecutor, Potter breached the Taser use policy.
Prosecutors allege that Potter received Taser training on multiple occasions throughout her 26-year police tenure, including twice in the six months prior the incident.
They referenced training that specifically warns cops against confusing a pistol with a Taser and encourages them to "understand the distinctions between their Taser and firearm to avoid such confusion" in one of their own court submissions.
Eldridge said jurors that they will hear about numerous standards she alleges Potter violated, including one on Taser use, which states that fleeing from an officer is not a sufficient reason to deploy one.
The case will be heard by a jury of fourteen members, two of whom will be white alternates. Nine of the jury's twelve members are likely to be white, one is black, and two are Asian.
The jury's racial composition is substantially in line with Hennepin County's demographics, which are around 74% white. However, the jury is noticeably less diverse than the one that found Chauvin guilty of Floyd's murder.
Potter has informed the court that she intends to testify.
Prosecutors must prove recklessness in the most serious charge against Potter, while they must prove criminal negligence in the lesser offense.
Minnesota's sentencing guidelines allow for a sentence of little more than seven years in jail for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors have indicated that they will seek an increased sentence.