Opening statements in the trial of the former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright began Wednesday (December 8) a week after jury was seated.
Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran with the Brooklyn Center Police Department has continuously claimed that she accidentally grabbed her gun during an April traffic stop instead of her Taser. Graphic body camera footage of the fatal police encounter show Potter yelling, "Taser!" before multiple shots ring out, fatally wounding the 20-year-old father.
Potter, who faces first- and second- degree manslaughter charges, is being represented by Earl Gray and Paul Engh, who've previously represented Minnesota law enforcement officers in nationally-watched cases. Engh represented the St. Paul officer who fatally shot Philando Castile in 2016 while Gray is currently representing one of the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd.
Daunte Wright's Mom Details Last Phone Call With Her Son
State prosecutors called Katie Bryant, Daunte Wright's mother, as their first witness following opening statements by both sides.
Bryant took the stand during, describing her son to jurors and revealing that he had enrolled into technical school about eight weeks before he was killed.
Bryant broke down on the stand recalling the events of April 11, stating her son was on his way to get a car wash when he was pulled over. The car, a 2011 white SUV, was a gift from his parents handed down from his older brother, Dallas –– who the car was still registered to –– two weeks before his death.
Daunte had called his mom to ask decide on which local car wash to go to, his mom testified. "Maybe 10 to 15 minutes later," there was another call she received.
"He called me to tell me that he'd been pulled over, and I asked him ... 'For what?'" Bryant said. "He said that the police officer said that he had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. So at that time, I told him that he should take it down," which Bryant said Daunte said he'd already done.
Bryant continued her testimony, saying the officer had asked about insurance information, and told Daunte to hand the phone over the cop when they came back to the window so that she could explain the situation: that the car was a new gift and the insurance hadn't been transferred over yet.
"He sounded nervous. Scared. He asked if he was in trouble," Bryant said. "I reassured him that it would be okay," she added tearfully.
Bryant said that she could hear through the call that the officer returned and told Daunte to get out of the car. Daunte asked why and if he was in trouble, Bryant said, that's when the phone was put down "and then I heard, I heard the officer telling Daunte ... 'Don't run.'
"And I heard Daunte say, 'No I'm not ––" she told the jury. The phone disconnected from there, after someone said, "hang up the phone."
In the one to two minutes that went by, Bryant said she called back "100 times" and finally FaceTimed her son's phone. A female passenger answered screaming, "They shot him!" before flipping the phone's camera to Daunte.
"I saw my son ... and he looked dead," Bryant said through tears.
The Defense Blames Daunte
In opening statements, defense attorneys for Potter argued that the 20-year-old was "going to kill her partner" before suggesting that Wright wouldn't have been shot had he complied.
On the fact that she pulled her gun instead of her Taser, Potter's lawyers said: "She made a mistake. This is an accident. She is a human being."
The Other Officer Involved Testifies
Early reports on Wright's death indicate Kim Potter was training another officer the day of the shooting. That other officer, Anthony Luckey, took the stand Wednesday (December 8), testifying that he attempted to handcuff Wright during the fatal traffic stop.
Luckey is the officer who first approached Wright's car to tell him he was being pulled over for air fresheners hanging from the mirror.
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