(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — The trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter kicked off on Wednesday. Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year.
Two witnesses for the prosecution were in the spotligjht on Day 1: Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, and Brooklyn Center police officer Anthony Luckey.
Here’s the rundown of Day 1:
Potter’s training scrutinized in the courtroom
Erin Eldridge, a prosecutor with the Minnesota assistant attorney general’s office, presented the state’s case against Potter during the opening statements.
Eldridge read the oath that Brooklyn Center officers take to the jury: “I will never betray my badge, my integrity. my character, or the public interest. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.”
Eldridge told jurors that police officers “have the responsibility to be mindful and attentive and acutely aware of the weapons that they carry, and the risks associated with those weapons,” targeting Potter’s defense that claims Potter had meant to grab her stun gun instead of her firearm when she fatally shot Daunte Wright.
“When it comes to those weapons, they have the responsibility to carry those weapons, and use those weapons appropriately,” Eldridge added.
Eldridge told the jury that they’ll hear evidence regarding stun gun and firearm training that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police department, would have had.
Potter carried her weapons on her belt in the same way every day on the job, Eldridge told the jury, and that she wore her firearm on her dominant, right-hand side and her stun gun on her non-dominant, left side.
Potter was a 26-year veteran of the department.
Potter’s defense maintains that she accidentally shot Wright with her firearm when she meant to shoot him with her stun gun.
“She was also trained about the risks of pulling the wrong weapon and that drawing and firing the wrong weapon could kill someone,” Eldridge said. “She was trained to carry her weapons in this way. And she was trained on how to use them and how not to use them.”
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank later questioned Brooklyn Center Police Officer Anthony Luckey, who was at the fatal April 11 incident. He is the state’s second witness and was questioned on handgun and stun gun training.
“The policy was opposite side of your duty firearm,” Luckey said on the stand about Brooklyn Center police training. “That way, officers do not get their firearms confused with their Tasers.”
Luckey said that officers practice drawing the stun guns, go through slideshow lessons and perform continuous hands-on training regarding their weapons. They also go through training as not to confuse their weapons, he said.
Potter’s second-degree charge alleges that Potter acted with “culpable negligence” in Wright’s death.
The first-degree charge alleges that Wright’s death happened while Potter recklessly handled a gun, causing the death to be reasonably foreseeable. An intent to kill is not required in either charge.
‘An error can happen’: Potter defense argued
In the opening statements, the defense said it plans on introducing Dr. Laurence Miller, a psychologist, to testify about traumatic incidents, police work and action errors, which defense attorney Paul Engh said will be “about how it is that we do one thing while meaning to do another.”
Engh gave examples of common mistakes to the jury — including writing the wrong date down or putting in an old password into a computer — that are considered “action errors,” a term he urged the jury to remember.
“They are ordinarily dismissible, but they become quite important when what happens is catastrophic,” Engh said.
“Dr. Miller will tell you in times of chaos, acute stress decisions have to be made when there is no time for reflection,” he added. “What happens in these high catastrophic instances is that the habits that are ingrained, the training that’s ingrained takes over. In these chaotic situations, the historic training is applied and the newer training is discounted.”
Engh said that stun guns have only been available in the last 10 years to the department and this is a brand new stun gun, “whereas, by comparison, Potter has 26 years of gun training. And an error can happen.”
Wright’s mother gives tearful testimony
Katie Wright, who is testifying under the name Katie Bryant, told jurors about the final call she had with her son. She recalled him saying that he had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and said he was stopped by police for it.
She also recalled intimate details of Wright’s life. “He was funny, he was a jokester. He liked to make everybody laugh. He had a smile that lit up a room. He was amazing,” she said on the stand.
He had just enrolled in a trade school and planned on pursuing carpentry, she said, and that his son, Daunte Jr., is now two years old.
The jury was shown photos of Wright and his son.
“He was very proud to be a father,” Bryant said. “He was also worried that just because he was premature about him sleeping and he could sleep a lot as a premature baby and he was really worried about that. He would play with him, he would do everything that a father needs to do for his child.”
“He was an amazing dad,” she added.
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