Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter broke down on the stand Friday when she was forced to relive the moment she killed Daunte Wright.
“We were struggling. We were trying to keep him from driving away. It just went chaotic,” the 26-year law enforcement veteran said.
Potter is on trial in Hennepin County for charges of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 death of Daunte Wright. Potter shot Wright after she grabbed her firearm instead of her Taser, apparently by accident, during a traffic stop.
She said one of her fellow officers, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, “had a look of fear on his face” that was like nothing she had ever “seen before.”
Former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter breaks down in court recalling the moment she shot Daunte Wright. pic.twitter.com/2pjkTePKmj
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Johnson responded to assist Potter and Officer Anthony Luckey, who was being trained in by Potter. At the time of the shooting, Johnson was reaching into Wright’s vehicle through the passenger door and holding Wright’s right arm to prevent him from driving away.
Potter said she would not have stopped Wright’s vehicle had she been alone on patrol, since police initially pulled him over for minor equipment violations. However, she said they stopped his vehicle in order to meet the expectations for Luckey’s field training.
Potter said she was concerned that Wright had a gun after discovering that he had a weapons warrant and restraining order against him. Wright had an extensive criminal history. Potter was also worried that the woman in the car with Wright was the subject of the restraining order.
The former police officer said she grabbed a piece of paper from Wright’s hand moments before the shooting and held it in her left hand — the hand she would normally use to grab her Taser, which was on the non-dominant side of her body.
However, the prosecution played body-camera footage that shows Potter transferring the piece of paper to her right hand and then back to her left hand before shooting Wright.
Potter said she now lives out of state.
The prosecution grilled Potter on her many years of training and emphasized the fact that Potter did not “behave like someone who had just saved Sgt. Johnson’s life.” The defense has attempted to argue that Potter wanted to prevent Johnson from being dragged by Wright’s vehicle.
“You stopped doing your job completely. You didn’t communicate what happened over the radio, right? You didn’t make sure any officers knew what you had just done, right? You didn’t run down the street and try to save Daunte Wright’s life, did you?” said prosecutor Erin Eldridge.
“I’m sorry it happened. I’m so sorry,” a sobbing Potter told the courtroom. “I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Criminal defendants are allowed, but not obligated, to testify in their own trials, and many experts view the legal strategy as being too high-risk. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, for instance, did not testify in his trial.
“No matter how great the defense is, if you fumble on the stand here in front of the jury, you’re never going to win them back,” criminal defense attorney Matthew Barhoma told Fox News. “It’s a do-or-die strategy.”
The defense rested its case following Potter’s emotional testimony. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.