No verdict yet in the trial of the officer who killed Daunte Wright

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minneapolis Suburban Police Officer who says she intended to use her Taser instead of her gun when she shot and killed black motorist Daunte Wright made a “blunder of epic proportions” and had no “license to kill,” a prosecutor told jurors on Monday shortly before they began deliberating on his manslaughter trial.

Kim Potter’s attorney Earl Gray retorted in closing argument that the former Brooklyn Center officer made an honest mistake by shooting his handgun instead of his Taser and that shooting Wright was not a crime.

“In life, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, ”Gray said. “My God, a mistake is not a crime. It’s just not in our freedom-loving country.

The mostly white jury started deliberating shortly before 1 p.m. and left for the day at around 6 p.m. without commenting. They will be sequestered until the end. Potter, who is white, is charged with first and second degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting, which came after Wright was arrested for expiring license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge said during her summary that Wright’s death was “entirely preventable. Totally preventable. To pretend it was an error is not a defense, she said, noting that the words “accident” and “error” do not appear in the instructions to the jury.

“Accidents can still be felonies if they happen as a result of reckless or culpable negligence,” Eldridge said.

“She drew a deadly weapon,” Eldridge said. “She aimed at him. She pointed it at Daunte Wright’s chest and fired.

Gray claimed Wright “caused the whole incident” because he tried to flee from the police during a traffic stop. Potter mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser because the traffic stop “was chaos,” he said.

“Daunte Wright unfortunately caused his own death,” he said.

Potter, 49, said on Friday that she “didn’t want to hurt anyone”, that she was “sorry that happened” and that she didn’t remember what she said or anything that happened. after the shooting happened, so many of his memories of those moments are “missing”.

Eldridge said on Monday that the matter was not about whether Potter was sorry.

“Of course she feels bad about what she’s done.… But that has no place in your deliberations,” she said.

Playing Potter’s body-camera video frame-by-frame, Eldridge sought to raise doubts about Potter’s testimony that she had fired after seeing the “fear” on the face of another officer, then Staff Sgt. . Mychal Johnson, who was leaning out of the passenger door of the car and trying to handcuff Wright.

The defense argued that Johnson was in danger of being dragged and that Potter would have been vindicated using deadly force. But Eldridge pointed out to jurors that for much of the interaction, Potter was behind a third officer, whom she was training, and that Johnson was out of view of his camera before the shot – and it then showed the top of his head as he stepped back.

“Sergeant. Johnson clearly wasn’t afraid of being dragged, ”Eldridge said. “He never said he was scared. He did not say it at the time and he did not testify to it in court.

Jurors sent a note to the judge on Monday afternoon asking when Potter spoke with Laurence Miller, a psychologist who testified for the defense. The judge told jurors that all the evidence was in place, “so you should trust your collective briefs.” They then returned to the jury room.

When Potter testified, she agreed with Eldridge that she decided to use her Taser after seeing Johnson looking scared. But Eldridge pointed out an inconsistency, saying that when Potter spoke to Miller, she told him she didn’t know why she had used her Taser. Potter told the jury that she didn’t remember saying that.

It wasn’t clear from Potter’s testimony when Miller interviewed her on Zoom.

Eldridge, in her oral argument, also noted that Potter was putting other people in danger when she fired her gun, pointing out that the third officer was so close to the shooting that a shell bounced off her face.

“Members of the jury, safe handling of a firearm does not include shooting in a car with four people in direct danger,” she said.

Gray began her argument by attacking Eldridge’s summary, pointing out how she had played extremely slowed-down depictions of events Potter had seen in real time.

“Video playback is not at the right speed where it showed chaos, playback as slow as it gets… it’s the rabbit hole in the wrong direction,” Gray said. He also noted that Potter’s body camera was mounted on his chest and gave a slightly different perspective than his own vision.

As prosecutors did throughout the three-week trial, Eldridge pointed out that Potter, who resigned from the police force two days after the shooting, was a “highly trained” and “highly experienced” 26-year-old veteran. , and said she acted recklessly when she killed Wright.

“She made a series of bad choices that resulted in her shooting and killing Daunte Wright,” Eldridge said. “It wasn’t a little oopsy. It wasn’t putting the wrong date on a check. … It was a colossal mistake. A blunder of epic proportions.

While there is a risk every time an officer performs a traffic stop, that does not justify Potter using his gun on Wright after stepping away from her and other officers as they attempted to arrest him under an outstanding gun possession warrant, Eldridge said. .

“This case is not about Daunte Wright,” Eldridge said. “Daunte Wright is not on trial. He is not the reason why we are here today.

Eldridge also downplayed testimony from other police officers who described Potter as a good person or said they saw nothing wrong with his actions: “The accused has found herself in trouble and her police family are supportive of her. “

Wright’s death sparked protests of anger lasting several days in the Brooklyn Center. It happened as another white officer, Derek Chauvin, was on trial in neighboring Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd.

Judge Regina Chu told jurors that intention was not part of the charges and that the state did not have to prove that she attempted to kill Wright.

The judge said that in order to prove first degree manslaughter, prosecutors must prove that Potter caused Wright’s death by committing the felony of recklessly handling a firearm. This means they must prove that she committed a conscious or intentional act in handling or using a firearm that creates a substantial or unjustifiable risk of which she was aware and ignored, and that she put her safety at risk. .

For second degree manslaughter, the state must prove that she acted with culpable negligence, that is, knowingly taking the risk of causing death or serious bodily harm.

State sentencing guidelines provide for just over seven years in prison for conviction for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree manslaughter, although prosecutors have said that they were planning to require longer sentences.


Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this story. Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin.


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