Kim Potter, the former police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, when she mistook her firearm for a taser, gave emotional testimony on Friday. She apologized for the tragic incident.
Breaking down about the shooting, which occurred at a traffic stop near Minneapolis, she repeatedly told prosecutors that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
“I was very distraught. I just shot somebody. I’m sorry it happened,” Kim Potter testified, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry.”
According to police reports, Kim Potter, 49, was a 26-year veteran on the force, training a new officer when they pulled over Daunte Wright for having expired license plates. The trainee officers attempted to restrain Wright after he was told there was a warrant out for his arrest after failing to appear in court for a firearm misdemeanor charge, Wright struggled and got back into his car.
Attempting to drive off, one of the trainees reached in his car and grabbed his gear shift, while Potter yelled “taser! taser!” to inform her fellow officers that she was about to fire her taser. Grabbing her firearm by accident, she fired one shot at Wright, killing him at the scene.
“It just went chaotic,” Potter testified on Friday. “I remember yelling ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ and nothing happened. And then he told me I shot him.”
According to CNN, it was the first time the former officer publicly recounted the events of what happened the day of Daunte Wright’s death. She resigned from the force immediately after.
Under cross-examination, she said that she never fired her gun or her taser on the job before that day and had to take many breaks in between testimony.
Potter plead not-guilty to first-degree manslaughter, with her team claiming that she was justified in the shooting because Wright could have dragged and harmed her fellow officers by resisting arrest and driving away from the scene with their arms caught in the vehicle.
The prosecution argued that mixing up the guns was not only reckless, but that we should expect more from our police officers when lives are on the line in tense situations.
Questioning Potter over the different guns, cross-examination showed that the taser was bright yellow and much lighter in weight that a normal police-issued firearm.
Prosecuting attorneys also grilled the former officer on what actions she took after fatally killing Daunte Wright, following reports from the trainees that Potter completely froze in shock. She stated that she did offer any medical aid in an attempt to save Wright or communicate with other officers to call for an ambulance.
“You stopped doing your job,” prosecutor Erin Eldridge said. “You were focused on what you had done because you had just killed someone.”
The prosecution also had Potter confirm that Daunte Wright was not armed, did not have possession of a firearm in his car, and was non-violent. Potter responded “no” to every line of questioning about Wright’s behavior, including that he never threw a punch or kick, never threatened one of the officers present and that none of the officers felt like they were in danger.
Potter testified that she fired only after seeing the “look of fear” in a trainee’s eyes.
“The use of deadly force was not appropriate, and the evidence suggests that a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” said expert witness Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina School of Law associate professor.
He called Potter’s actions “excessive and inappropriate.”
Potter faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter, and 10 years for the less serious offense of second-degree manslaughter. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Monday.