MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Wednesday was the first day of testimony in the trial of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with manslaughter in the deadly shooting of Daunte Wright.
Wednesday morning, the prosecution and the defense delivered their opening statements. After the lunch break, the state called their first witnesses including Wright's mom, Katie Bryant, and Officer Anthony Luckey, the Brooklyn Center police officer who initiated the deadly traffic stop.
Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing 20-year-old Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter, who is white, mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. But, prosecutors say Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
The deadly shooting sparked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Potter’s defense team said the former officer will take the stand in her own defense.
UPDATES & FAQS: What to know about the Kim Potter trial
Brooklyn Center officer recalls Wright's traffic stop
Anthony Luckey, the second witness to testify, was a Brooklyn Center police officer in field training with Potter on the day Wright was pulled over on April 11. He said that he pulled over Wright for a hanging air freshener in his car and expired tabs. Potter was his supervising field training officer.
Luckey asked Wright for his license and insurance. Wright told him he didn't have his license with him and needed to look for the insurance. He then asked for Wright's information to look him up in the system, and it showed that Wright had a warrant for prior weapons offense and harassment protection order involving unknown woman.
After a 20-minute break, the state continued questioning Luckey about the traffic stop. Sgt. Mychal Johnson, a supervisor, arrived on the scene and advised Wright should be arrested for his warrant.
Luckey said when he re-approached the driver's side of the car, Wright was talking on the phone with his mother. He said the officers asked Wright to set the phone down and step out of the car since there is a warrant for his arrest. Wright seemed hesitant to get out of the car, but followed the instruction, Luckey testified. Once he restrained Wright, Luckey said he could feel Wright tense up and told Wright, "don't do it bro."
Officers struggled to restrain Wright as he resisted arrest, which is when Potter shot Wright while yelling "Taser, taser, taser." Wright then pushes on the gas and the car can be heard crashing down the road.
The state introduced new video from Luckey's squad car and body camera show his interactions with Wright during the traffic stop. The same timeframe was then shown through Potter's body camera video, which included a new perspective of her distress after shooting Wright.
The video shows moments from Potter's body cam after she shoots Wright and his car speeds off. She exclaims, "Ah s**t, I just shot him. I grabbed the wrong f**king gun. I shot him, oh my god. Oh my god." The two other officers told Potter to sit, who then crumples onto the ground while bawling. Potter's body camera video of the incident can be watched in full at the 13-minute mark of the video below.
Daunte Wright's mom first witness to testify
The state called their first witness, Katie Bryant, to take the stand after the lunch break. Bryant, 43, is Wright’s mother.
Bryant told the court Wright was living with her at the time of his death. She described her son as a jokester who liked to make everyone laugh.
"He had a smile that would light up a room," she said. "He was amazing. He was my son."
Bryant said Wright worked at Famous Footwear with his dad and Taco Bell, but he was planning to go to trade school. She said he had enrolled at Summit Academy about two months before he died.
On April 11, the day of the deadly shooting, Bryant said she was watching Wright’s son, Daunte Jr. She had put him down for a nap when Wright asked for money to get a car wash and gas. She said he kissed his son, who was sleeping, before leaving.
A short time later, Wright called his mom to tell her he had been pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.
Bryant broke down while describing the phone call to the jury.
"He sounded nervous, scared," she said. "He asked if he was in trouble. I said, ‘No, you haven’t done anything wrong’. He just sounded really nervous but I reassured him it would be OK."
The officers instructed Wright to hang up the phone, so he did.
Bryant said she kept calling back and eventually tried FaceTiming Wright. A woman, Wright’s girlfriend who was in the car with him, answered. Bryant said she was crying and told her Wright had been shot.
"She faced the phone towards the driver’s seat and my son was laying there and he was unresponsive," she said. "He looked dead."
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge played a video for the jury showing Bryant after she arrived on the scene of the deadly shooting.
Bryant testified she did not know he had a warrant out for his arrest.
Prosecution opening statement
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge delivered the opening statement for the state. She began her remarks by laying out the policies of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, the training officers go through and the oath they take when they become police officers.
Above all else, Eldridge said, police must "protect life, not take life."
"We trust them to know wrong from right and left from right" Eldridge said, referencing Potter’s claim she grabbed her gun instead of her Taser from her duty belt when she shot Wright. She said Potter was well-trained, consistently carrying her firearm on her dominant right side, her Taser-7 on her off-left.
She argued the case is "about an officer who knew not to get it dead wrong, but she failed to get it right."
New video of Daunte Wright shooting shown to jury
During her opening statement, Eldridge showed the jury video that showed a different perspective of the deadly traffic stop than previously seen in Potter’s body camera video, which was released the day after the fatal shooting.
The video showed Potter sitting on the curb in apparent disbelief after Wright drives away after being shot.
Defense opening statement
Defense attorney Paul Engh delivered the opening statement for the defense. He said the former officer made a mistake when she fired her gun instead of her Taser.
"Police officers are human beings," he told the jury.
Engh said when Potter yelled, "Taser, taser, taser," she was seeing her fellow officer, Sgt. Johnson, inside the vehicle on the other side trying to hold the gear shift so Wright could not escape.
"He’s about to drive away with a police officer dangling from his car," he said.
Engh said if Potter did nothing and Wright drove away, he would have hurt or possibly killed Sgt. Johnson.
"All [Wright] had to do was stop and he’d be with us," he said.
Engh said Johnson will be called to testify later this week.
Judge rules on objections
Court got off to a late start on Wednesday morning after both sides were in chambers going over some objections to trial exhibits.
The passenger in Wright’s car during the deadly traffic stop, his girlfriend Alayna Albrecht-Payton, is expected to testify on Wednesday. The defense said during the traffic stop, Wright handed her Xanax tablets and asked her to hide them. The defense wanted to question her on the issue, but the state argued it was not relevant.
Judge Chu ruled in favor of the state, saying the Xanax tablets in the car with Albrecht-Payton are not relevant and she cannot be asked about it on the witness stand. The judge reminded the parties the defense cannot bring up Wright's "bad behavior" unless Potter was specifically aware of it at the time of the shooting.
Who are the jurors?
Fourteen jurors were seated for the Potter trial--12 jurors and two alternates. The jury is made up of seven men and seven women. Three of the jurors are people of color while the rest are white.
The following jurors have been seated on the jury:
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 50s. Works as an editor in neurology dealing with medical evidence. Testified that he has an unfavorable view of "Blue Lives Matter." Has always wanted to serve on a jury.
- Juror No. 6: White woman in her 60s. Retired special education teacher. She lost one of her four children two years ago to breast cancer.
- Juror No. 7: White man, 29 years old. Overnight operations manager at Target and bass guitar player in a local alternative rock band. Took a firearms safety class when he was a teenager.
- Juror No. 11: Asian woman in her 40s. Works in downtown Minneapolis and said she was concerned about the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
- Juror No. 17: White woman in her 20s. Has little prior knowledge about the case or legal system.
- Juror No. 19: Black woman in her 30s. Mother of two and a teacher. Owns a gun with a permit and a Taser for personal protection.
- Juror No. 21: White man in his 40s. Father with previous experience serving on a jury.
- Juror No. 22: White man in his 60s. Registered nurse for over 25 years, currently studying to be nurse practitioner. Gun owner. He also manages properties.
- Juror No. 26: Asian woman in her 20s. She is in school and has finals and job interviews coming up, but said she was willing to serve if selected.
- Juror No. 40: White man in his 40s. Participated in the police explorers program in high school, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in law enforcement because he was afraid of having to fire a gun.
- Juror No. 48: White woman in her 40s. Mother of 2 school-age children. Former IT project manager. Grew up on a farm outside Minnesota.
- Juror No. 55: White man in his 50s. Field engineer in cybersecurity. Navy veteran. Gun owner. Enjoys partaking in Renaissance "steel weapons fighting."
- Juror No. 57: White woman in her 70s. Mother with children in their 40s. She has served on two prior juries.
- Juror No. 58: White man in his 30s. Father of young child. Lives in Eden Prairie. He has a close friend who is a St. Paul police officer.
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