MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors on Thursday rested their case against Kim Potter, the suburban Minneapolis police officer charged in the shooting death of Black motorist Daunte Wright.
After a week of hearing from witnesses called by the prosecution, Potter’s attorneys will get their chance to defend the former Brooklyn Center officer, who they said will take the stand.
Potter has said she meant to draw her Taser to stop Wright from trying to drive away from officers who were attempting to arrest him on a weapons possession warrant in April. She drew her handgun instead and shot him once. The shooting was caught on video by the officers’ body cameras.
Prosecutors called police witnesses to build their argument that Potter, who retired two days after the shooting, was an experienced officer who had been thoroughly trained in use of a Taser, including warnings about the danger of confusing it with a handgun. They have to prove recklessness or culpable negligence if they are to win a conviction on the manslaughter charges.
Potter is white, and the shooting sparked angry demonstrations in Brooklyn Center. It happened as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was standing trial in George Floyd’s death.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors were expected to wrap up their case Thursday against the Minnesota police officer charged in Daunte Wright ‘s death, setting the stage for a defense that at some point will have Kim Potter directly addressing the jury.
Potter, 49, has said she meant to use her Taser when she shot and killed Wright on April 11, as he had pulled away from officers at a traffic stop and was trying to drive away. Body-camera video captured her shouting “I’ll tase you!” and “Taser, Taser, Taser!” before firing once.
Her attorneys have also argued that Potter would have been within her rights to use deadly force because a fellow officer was endangered by Wright’s attempt to flee.
The death of Wright, who was Black, set off angry demonstrations for several days in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center just as a white former officer, Derek Chauvin, was on trial in nearby Minneapolis for the killing of George Floyd. Potter, who is white, resigned two days after the shooting. She’s charged with manslaughter.
It wasn’t clear when Potter would take the stand. Her attorneys also plan to call several character witnesses on her behalf, though the judge ruled Wednesday that they would be limited to three.
During Wednesday’s testimony, use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton testified for the prosecution that Potter acted unreasonably in shooting Wright.
“The use of deadly force was not appropriate and the evidence suggests a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” said Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who also testified for the prosecution at Chauvin’s trial.
Stoughton reminded jurors that Potter warned that she was about to use her Taser on Wright, and said a reasonable officer would not have decided to use a Taser if they thought there was an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm.
Stoughton said deadly force would have been inappropriate even if Potter believed another officer was in the car because of the risk that nearby officers or Wright’s passenger could get shot.
And he said that if it appeared Wright was going to drive away, shooting would make things worse because he could be incapacitated and the vehicle itself would become a weapon.
In an acrimonious cross-examination, defense attorney Earl Gray sought to undermine Stoughton’s expertise, including by questioning his experience as a police officer. Gray got Stoughton to agree that Wright would not have been shot if he hadn’t tried to get away, and he fired a series of questions at Stoughton to point out that Wright did not stop resisting the officers despite Potter’s warnings that she intended to use her Taser.
Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright, was called by prosecutors to provide “spark of life” testimony, which Minnesota courts allow to humanize a victim.
He described his son as a typical big brother who joked a lot with his two younger sisters, and he said the family got together every Sunday. Arbuey Wright was moved to tears when prosecutors showed jurors photos of him and his son with their arms around each other and one of Daunte Wright with his own son.
“He was so happy about junior,” Wright said. “He loved his son.”
The case is being heard by a mostly white jury.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Naperville, Illinois, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed.