By Carma Hassan, Ray Sanchez, Brad Parks and Peter Nickeas, CNN
The prosecution and defense on Wednesday released opening statements in the trial of the manslaughter of Kimberly Potter, a former Minnesota police officer who said she was mistaken. Her gun for a Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge insisted to the jury that officers were sworn to “preserve lives, not take lives,” and that the prosecution played video of the deadly encounter in April.
The video shows Potter, with her gun drawn, warning Wright several times as he is returning to his driver’s seat that she will “tease” him. Then she pulled the trigger.
After Potter shows up and realizes she shot Wright with her gun — not her Taser — the officer says, “Damn, I just shot him… I was holding the wrong f*gun. * king. I shot him.”
The former Brooklyn Center police officer put his hands on his head and fell to the ground.
“There’s no point in taking the life of a young man,” Eldridge said. “We believe they know wrong from right, and left from right” – referring to the Missions and guns placed on opposite sides of an officer’s body.
Defense attorney Paul Engh said in his opening statement all Wright “had to do was surrender”. Engh focuses on Potter trying to use Taser on Wright to protect her partner, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, because he was in Wright’s car and would be injured if Wright drove away.
“All he has to do is stop and he’ll be with us,” Engh said of Wright.
“She realized what had happened to her eternal and unending regret,” Engh said of the moment Potter realized she had fired the gun instead of her Taser. “She made a mistake. This is an accident. She is a human being, but she has to do what she has to do to prevent the death of a fellow officer.”
Engh concludes his prologue that “Potter’s good name has been denied by this allegation, which is untrue, and by the press, which has been tilted”.
“We’re trying to get it back and we’re going to get it back,” Engh said.
Wright’s mother was the first witness to take the stand Wednesday.
Defendant is expected to testify
Potter pleaded not guilty to first and second degree manslaughter charges. If convicted, she faces at least a decade in prison.
Potter, 49, is expected to testify in his own defense during the trial. The female passenger in Wright’s car is also expected to testify.
The jury consisted of seven white men, four white women, two Asian women, and one black woman. No Black men were selected for the jury.
The trial is taking place in the same courtroom where the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd. But another judge – Judge Regina M. Chu of Hennepin County – is presiding over Potter’s trial.
Wright’s death prompted multi-day protests in suburban Minneapolis. It rocked an urban area scarred by other police-related deaths and rekindled national conversations about policing and the use of force against people of color.
Wright, the 20-year-old son of a black father and a white mother, is also the father of a toddler.
Wright’s mother had a tearful testimony on the spot
The first witness the prosecution called on Wednesday was Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, who gave an emotional testimony.
She began by describing Wright and saying that he was a great father to his son, Daunte Jr. Photos of Wright were shown to jurors, including one in which the young father was wearing a bandage at the hospital, which allowed him to visit the neonatal emergency department of the care unit. her premature baby.
“He will play with him. He will do everything a father needs to do for his child. He was a great dad,” Bryant said through tears.
Bryant later described the events of April when her son was shot dead. She gave Wright $50 for gas and a car wash that day, and soon he called her, saying the police pulled him in, she said.
Wright seemed worried, Bryant said, and asked if he was in trouble. She told him he had done nothing wrong and “reassured him that it would be fine.”
Ms. Bryant heard an officer tell her son to get out of the car before the call was dropped. She called several more times before making a FaceTime call to Wright.
A woman who answered the phone was screaming, she said, that her son had been shot.
“She pointed the phone towards the driver’s seat. My son was lying there, unresponsive and looking like he was dead,” Bryant said. “And then I heard someone say ‘hang up the phone’ again and it disconnected again.”
Bryant said she called 911 to get the address where her son was shot. She was so distressed that a neighbor drove her to the scene, where she stayed for hours, refusing to leave until his body was removed, she said. She told the jury that her son’s body was covered with a white sheet and that she recognized him by his tennis shoes.
Eldridge, the prosecutor, broadcast full-body camera video of Bryant running to the officers. Officers told Bryant they were not at the scene of the shooting and asked her to tell them what happened.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said.
Bryant said she still has a scar inside her mouth from biting too hard on the inside of her cheek.
“I thought it was a dream and if I bit the inside of my cheek I would wake up. But I didn’t wake up,” she said.
During the cross-examination, Bryant told Engh that she knew her son didn’t have a driver’s license. She said she did not know there was a warrant for Wright’s arrest and that he was using marijuana.
What we know about prosecutions and defenses
The lead prosecutor in Chauvin’s trial, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, is also prosecuting the Potter case.
Potter’s defense attorneys, Engh and Earl Grey, have previously represented police officers in closely watched cases.
Gray represents another former officer facing charges in connection with Floyd’s death and also serves on Yanez’s legal team.
What happened on the day of the shooting?
Police said Wright was driving on a Sunday afternoon when officers stopped him for an expired card. The revised criminal complaint said Wright was also stopped because his vehicle “had an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror”.
Officer Anthony Luckey, with whom Potter was training at the time of the shooting, decided to pull Wright back after he incorrectly signaled, an expired license plate tag and an air freshener tree picture hanging from his rearview window, Engh said, but “this case is not about the tabs, not about the Christmas tree (air freshener). “
During the stopover, officers learned that he had an pending warrant and they attempted to arrest him.
Video of the encounter shows a male officer approaching the vehicle in front of Potter, and a second officer in the passenger side. Potter said “ask him to step out,” and the front male employee asked Wright to get out of the car.
Potter appears to say “get him out,” and another officer says “do me a favor” and “get out of the car,” according to the video.
An officer told Wright he was under arrest. Potter told Wright “you have a warrant.”
Wright wrestled with an officer, backed into his car, and was shot.
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. Copyright Registered.
CNN’s Holly Yan contributed to this report.
https://kesq.com/news/national-world/cnn-national/2021/12/08/opening-statements-made-in-trial-of-kimberly-potter-ex-cop-who-killed-daunte-wright/ Statement opening the trial of Kimberly Potter, the ex-cop who killed Daunte Wright