Kimberly Potter trial: Opening statements to begin in trial of 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 Wednesday in the same courtroom where another ex-cop was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Kimberly Potter trial: Opening statements to begin in trial of ex-cop who killed Daunte Wright
© Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter has been booked into the Hennepin County Jail, according to online jail records. She was booked approximately 37 minutes after the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said they arrested her. Potter was charged with second degree manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright.

Officer Kimberly Potter, 49, faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in a homicide her lawyers have suggested resulted from her mistaking her gun for a Taser in April. Potter has pleaded not guilty and faces at least a decade in prison if convicted.

The shooting of the 20-year-old Black man happened in Brooklyn Center, a few miles from the Hennepin County Government Center where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for killing Floyd.

Wright’s killing set off 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.

Just as video footage played a crucial role in the case against Chauvin, body camera video is expected to be critical in the trial against Potter, who is White.

In the footage, Potter can be heard yelling “Taser” repeatedly before she points her handgun and shoots the unarmed Wright.

After firing, Potter is heard yelling: “Holy s***! I just shot him!”

Potter’s testimony could also be crucial. Defense attorney Paul Engh told a prospective juror that Potter will take the stand.

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.

Matthew Frank, an assistant attorney general who was the lead prosecutor against Chauvin, is handling Potter’s case before Hennepin County Judge Regina M. Chu.

The final members of the jury that will decide Potter’s fate were selected last week. The 14 jurors, including two alternates, are seven White men, four White women, two Asian women and a Black woman.

Wright was driving on a Sunday afternoon in April 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 was shot after he pulled away, struggled with an officer and stepped back into his car.

Nine days after Wright’s shooting, Chauvin was convicted of murder charges in the courtroom where a jury will hear opening statements in Potter’s trial.

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