Kim Potter testifies on Daunte Wright shooting, defense rests case

The defense rested their case Friday in the manslaughter trial of Kim Potter after the former Brooklyn Center police officer concluded her testimony on the deadly shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year. 

Closing arguments will take place on Monday. Court will resume at 9 a.m. CT. FOX 9 is streaming the Potter trial live, gavel to gavel, at and on the FOX 9 YouTube channel and the FOX 9 News App.

UPDATES & FAQS: What to know about the Kim Potter trial

Kim Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte 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. 

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Kim Potter testimony

Potter described the events of the deadly traffic stop on April 11. She was riding with Officer Anthony Luckey as a field training officer that day. She told the court she and Officer Luckey first spotted Wright’s Buick in a turn lane with the wrong turn signal on. 

She said Officer Luckey noticed the air freshener hanging from Wright’s rearview mirror and the vehicle’s expired tabs and wanted to pull the vehicle over. 

Potter testified that if she had been working alone that day, she most likely would not have stopped the vehicle since the air freshener was simply an equipment violation and the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented people from getting new tabs in a timely manner. 

However, on that day, they did stop Wright’s vehicle for those violations because Officer Luckey was training. 

"Part of field training is that my probationer would make numerous contacts with the public throughout the day," she said. 

Defense attorney Earl Gray continued to walk Potter through the traffic stop. She detailed the running of Wright’s name and date of birth, noting his suspended license, an arrest warrant for a weapons violation and an order for protection. 

Based on her previous experience as a police officer, Potter testified the weapons warrant made her concerned Wright may have had a weapon in the vehicle. 

Potter broke down on the stand while recounting the moment she fired the fatal shot into Wright’s chest. She testified she saw fear on Sgt. Mychal Johnson’s face inside the vehicle, where he was attempting to keep Wright from fleeing in the vehicle. 

"We were struggling. We were trying to keep him from driving away," she said. "It just went chaotic." 

She had tears in her eyes as she described shooting Wright: "I remember yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ and nothing happened. And then he told me I shot him."

Under cross-examination, Potter, in tears, testified she did not want to quit her job at the Brooklyn Center Police Department because she did not want anything bad to happen to the city or her colleagues given the outrage following the deadly shooting. 

Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge then asked Potter about the differences between her handgun and her Taser--the size, color and weight among other things. Potter confirmed the two weapons look different. 

Potter appeared to have a physical reaction to hearing herself say, "Taser, Tasaer, Taser" in her body camera video moments before she fired her gun. At that point, her defense attorneys asked Judge Regina Chu for a break and the court adjourned for lunch. 

Following the lunch break, Eldridge resumed her questioning and Potter got emotional once again. 

"I'm sorry it happened," she said, in tears. "I'm so sorry." 

Potter testified she did not plan to use deadly force that day. 

"I didn't want to hurt anybody," she said. 

Kim Potter on becoming a Brooklyn Center police officer

Potter told the court her interest in a career in law enforcement started in elementary school when a local police officer came to her classroom to discuss bicycle safety. 

"[The officer] really influenced me as a youngster that police are good people and I wanted to be something like that someday," she said. 

Potter said she went on to become a school patrol officer in junior high and joined the Fridley Police Department Explorers program. She eventually got a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Mary’s University. 

She was sworn in as a Brooklyn Center police officer in 1995 with her parents in attendance. She served on the force for 26 years, the last 10-15 years as a field training officer, before resigning following Wright’s shooting death. 

Psychologist explains ‘action error’ and ‘slip and capture’

The first witness called by the defense on Friday was psychologist Dr. Laurence Miller. He was paid $30,000 to consult and testify on the psychology of "slip and capture" or "action error."

Miller explained "action error" is when a person resorts to a more common or more practiced behavior. 

"Plain language: You intend to do one thing, think you’re doing that thing, but do something else and only realize later that the action you intended was not the one you took," he said. 

Miller said action errors occur all the time when people are distracted or hyper-focused on something else, listing examples such as writing the wrong year on a check at the beginning of a new year or instinctively slamming on the brakes when you get cut off by another car while driving. 

Miller’s testimony focused on police firearms training and muscle memory for police. He also discussed how critical incidents in law enforcements with compressed time frames, high threats to life and safety and "confusing and changing" circumstance can lead to action errors. 

"Put all of these things together and that creates a high and that is exactly the kind of perfect storm for the production of an action error," he said. 

During cross-examination, the prosecution pointed out Miller's work is overwhelmingly done in support of law enforcement. 

In her questioning, Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge looked to shred the concept of "slip and capture" in the field of psychology at large. She said some research surrounding it has been described as "junk science." 

"Well it's not a diagnosis, but it's simply a way of describing a cognitive phenomenon," Miller said. 

State rests, defense calls ex-Brooklyn Center police chief to testify

The state rested Thursday morning and the defense opened its case, putting former Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon on the stand. He was in charge when Potter shot and killed Wright and said based on the evidence he has seen he does not believe Potter did anything wrong.

"When I viewed both camera angles and had all the data in front of me, I saw no violation…of the policy, procedure and law," he said. 

A use of force expert called by the defense, Stephan Ijames, agreed, saying the shooting was justified even though Potter only meant to tase Wright.

Prosecutors continue to argue Potter was reckless and negligent.

Kim Potter charges

Kim Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte 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. 

TIMELINE: Daunte Wright's death to Kim Potter's trial

If convicted, Potter faces up to 15 years in prison, although prosecutors have said they intend to seek an upward departure from the state sentencing guidelines. The state argues aggravating factors in the case warrant a stricter sentence, including that Potter's conduct put others at risk and that she abused her position of authority as a police officer. 

Kim Potter trial jury

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.