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Society

Potter Τrial Εnters Second Week with Medical Examiner on Tap

December 13, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS — The trial of a Minnesota police officer charged in the shooting death of Daunte Wright opens its second week of testimony Monday, with a medical examiner expected to walk jurors through Wright’s autopsy.

Wright, 20, was slain April 11 after being pulled over by police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Kim Potter, 49, is charged with manslaughter.

Potter, a 26-year veteran, said she meant to draw her Taser to stop Wright after he pulled away and got back in his car as officers tried to arrest him on a warrant for a weapon charge. Potter is white and Wright was Black. His death, which came while Derek Chauvin was on trial in nearby Minneapolis in George Floyd’s death, set off several nights of angry protests in Brooklyn Center.

Prosecutors spent the first week of testimony showing jurors police video of the traffic stop, in which an officer in training, Anthony Luckey, took the lead under Potter’s guidance.

The video showed the critical moments where Wright pulled away as Luckey was on the verge of handcuffing him, followed by Potter shouting “I’ll tase you!” and “Taser, Taser, Taser!” and then shooting him once with her handgun.

Jurors saw Potter falling to the ground and wailing immediately afterward, with other officers attempting to console her. She resigned two days later.

The defense has called the shooting a horrific mistake, but has also asserted that Potter would have been within her rights to used deadly force on Wright because he might have dragged a third officer, then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson, with his car.

Johnson testified Friday that he was holding Wright’s right arm with both hands to try to handcuff him, but dropped Wright’s arm when he heard Potter shout. Video appeared to show Johnson’s hands still in the car when the shot was fired.

Prosecutors have argued that Potter had extensive Taser training that included multiple warnings about not confusing it with a handgun. One of them, Matthew Frank, noted that Johnson hadn’t drawn either his Taser or gun.

The trial also has included extensive testimony and video from officers who hurried to the scene after Wright’s car, moving away from the traffic stop, collided with an oncoming vehicle.

Prosecutors blamed Potter for not immediately radioing details of the shooting so that Wright might have gotten medical aid more quickly; it took about 8 1/2 minutes before officers, uncertain of what they were dealing with, pulled him from his crashed vehicle.

Defense attorney Paul Engh complained that prosecutors were showing too much video that had nothing to do with the shooting of Wright, and requested a mistrial. But prosecutors are seeking an aggravated sentence if they win conviction and have to show that Potter’s actions endangered others. Judge Regina Chu dismissed the request.

The case is being heard by a mostly white jury.

State sentencing guidelines call for just over seven years in prison upon conviction of first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree, though prosecutors have said they plan to push for even longer sentences.

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