The officer who killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop took the stand on Friday as one of two witnesses called by the defense.
In an emotional testimony, former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter recounted how she became a police officer as well as her background, which included time serving in the department’s crisis team as a crisis negotiator.
She also recalled the hours leading up to and including Wright’s killing.
Potter was training Officer Anthony Luckey that day, April 11, and they talked about pulling Wright over because the white Buick he was driving had expired tabs and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, which is technically illegal.
Potter testified that she probably wouldn’t have pulled Wright over on her own, particularly for the expired tabs, because the pandemic slowed down people’s ability to renew.
Potter testified that she and Officer Luckey later found out that Wright had an order for protection against a female, an expired license, and a bench warrant. Considering Wright was with a female passenger, the two officers opted to arrest Wright to have an opportunity to question the passenger.
After Potter received what appeared to be Wright’s vehicle registration, he broke away, which led to Potter reaching for her gun, even though she intended to use her Taser. “And I remember yelling ‘Taser, Taser, Taser!’ And nothing happened,” Potter said. “Then [Sgt. Mychel Johnson] told me I shot him, and I broke down in tears,” Potter said, as she broke down in tears.
During cross-examination, when pressed by prosecutor Erin Eldridge about why she shot Wright and her subsequent apparent shock and inaction pursuant to police policies, Potter responded hysterically through tears, “I’m sorry that happened! I’m so sorry!”
Eldridge further challenged the notion that it was an accident, citing Potter’s almost-20 years of experience with using Tasers and receiving annual training on using them.
Eldridge contended she was not following her training as she did not perform a Taser spark test on the day of the shooting, and that she appeared unsure what type of Taser cartridges the department uses.
Potter’s testimony also appeared to be inconsistent with bodycam footage from after the shooting. At one point, bodycam video recorded Potter saying that she shot someone and that she was going to go to prison. But on the witness stand, Potter said she did not recall saying anything after she shot Wright. “I was very distraught, I just shot somebody. I’ve never done that [before],” Potter said.
During the lunch break, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence founder Toshira Garraway came out with Wright’s family, as well as the family of Kobe Heisler, to denounce Potter’s testimony as inauthentic. “It was really important that we show up because you know when Kim Potter is on the stand, they’re talking about how wonderful she is. And we’re here to show that she is not actually all that wonderful,” said Amity Dimmock, whose son Kobe Heisler was killed by two Brooklyn Center police officers during a crisis call.
Dimmock added that Potter was the first officer to get to the scene and instructed the two officers to turn off their body cameras.
“I don’t buy anything she says,” continued Dimmock. “And I’m not even going to get into the logistics of a 26-year veteran trying to use ‘oops, that was a mistake.’ Because even if she wants to get away with that, guess what, in most businesses, in most lines of career choice, mistakes can still cost you prison time and mistakes can still cost you your freedom.”
Also on Friday, the defense called Dr. Laurence Miller, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based psychologist who works with police agencies to testify about so-called slip and capture errors. Considered to be “junk science,” slip-and-capture errors are where a person is so used to doing something after a long time period of practice that it can be difficult for someone to adjust to a new method of doing things.
Miller in his testimony said it happens all the time, and not just in policing. He cited a person’s propensity to write the previous year on a form, for example, shortly after a new year begins.
During cross-examination, Eldridge elicited from Dr. Miller that mitigation measures are in place to reduce those so-called errors, such as designing Tasers differently from guns and wearing them on different sides.
Shortly after the defense rested, both sides discussed changes to the jury instructions, which included how to make it understandable by the jury, as well as to emphasize that just because Potter intended to use her Taser that does not constitute a defense.
Final instructions will be read to the jury on Monday, followed by closing arguments.
H. Jiahong Pan 潘嘉宏 is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.