Opening statements begin in trial of Kimberly Potter, ex-cop who killed Daunte Wright


Opening statements in the trial of a suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a routine traffic stop are expected in the same courtroom where another ex-cop was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd.

 (CNN) — Opening statements are underway in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who said she mistook her gun for a Taser when she killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in April.

The former Brooklyn Center police officer has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Potter faces at least a decade in prison.

Police pulled Wright over for an expired tag on April 11. During the stop, officers learned he had an outstanding warrant and attempted to arrest him.

In body camera footage, Potter can be heard yelling “Taser!” repeatedly before shooting Wright. After firing her handgun, she yells, “Holy s***! I just shot him!”

Potter, 49, is expected to testify in her own defense during the trial. The female passenger in Wright’s car is also expected to testify.

The jury includes seven White men, four White women, two Asian women, and one Black woman. No Black men were selected for the jury.

The trial is taking place in the same courtroom where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd. But a different judge — Hennepin County Judge Regina M. Chu — is presiding over Potter’s trial.

Wright’s death prompted several days of protests in the Minneapolis suburb. It rocked a metropolitan area scarred by other police-involved deaths and reignited national conversations about policing and the use of force against people of color.

What we know about the prosecution and defense

The lead prosecutor in the Chauvin trial, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, is also prosecuting the Potter case.

Potter’s defense attorneys, Engh and Earl Gray, have previously represented police officers in closely watched cases.

Engh was an attorney for Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer who was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

Gray represents another ex-cop facing charges in connection with Floyd’s death and also served on Yanez’s legal team.

What happened the day of the shooting

Wright was driving on a Sunday afternoon when officers pulled him over for an expired tag, police said. The amended criminal complaint said Wright was also stopped because his car “had an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.”

During the stop, officers learned he had an outstanding warrant and attempted to arrest him.

Video of the encounter showed a male officer approaching the car ahead of Potter, and a second officer on the passenger side. Potter said “have him step out,” and the male officer in front asks Wright to step out of the car.

Potter appeared to say “have him step out,” and another officer said “do me a favor” and “step out of the car,” according to the video.

An officer told Wright he was under arrest. Potter told Wright “you have a warrant.”

Wright struggled with an officer, stepped back into his car and was shot.


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