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Prosecutor: Kim Potter 'Failed' Daunte Wright

Manslaughter trial began Wednesday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 9, 2021 4:22 AM CST
Prosecutor: Kim Potter 'Failed' Daunte Wright
The memorial site for Daunte Wright sits covered in snow on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.   (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

(Newser) – A suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she mistakenly drew her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright went on trial on manslaughter charges Wednesday, with a prosecutor saying Kim Potter had been trained how to avoid such deadly mix-ups but still got it wrong. Potter’s lawyer, though, argued that she made an error, saying, "Police officers are human beings," the AP reports. And he cast blame on Wright, saying all the 20-year-old had to do that day was surrender. Potter, 49, killed Wright, who wasn't armed, during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center in a shooting that was recorded by her body camera. The white officer resigned two days later.

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Jurors saw video from officers' body cameras and the police car dashboard that showed Potter threatening to shoot Wright with a Taser as another officer tried to pull him out of his car. After she shot him with her gun, Potter can be heard saying "I just shot him. ... I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun!" A car crash can be heard after Wright drives away and Potter—who defense attorney Paul Engh said had never fired her gun or Taser while on duty in her 26-year career—can be heard wailing uncontrollably afterward, "Oh my God. Oh my God!" before she crumples over. Engh told jurors that Potter made a mistake when she grabbed the wrong weapon and shot Wright after he attempted to drive away while she and other officers were trying to arrest him.

The charges don’t require proof that Potter intended to kill Wright, and prosecutor Erin Eldridge noted as much for the jury. But Engh also told jurors that Potter would have been justified in shooting Wright even if she had consciously chosen to draw her handgun, arguing that deadly force was warranted to protect her fellow officers. He said police had reason to believe that Wright might have a gun and that one of the officers had reached inside Wright’s car and was at risk of being dragged if Wright drove away. In her opening statement, Eldridge told jurors that Potter violated her extensive training—including on the risks of firing the wrong weapon—and “betrayed a 20-year-old kid." (A mostly white jury was seated last week.)

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