Prosecutors say Potter ‘betrayed her badge,’ defense says ‘she made a mistake’
(KSTP) – The jurors hearing the trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter got their first taste of what they’ll see and hear over the coming days when opening statements were made Wednesday.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge gave the opening statement for the state, saying Potter "betrayed her badge" when she fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on April 11.
Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the case.
Eldridge emphasized all of the extensive training Potter had been through and the policies the Brooklyn Center Police Department has to ensure something like this doesn’t happen but said Potter didn’t follow those pieces of training or policies during Wright’s traffic stop.
"We expect them not to betray their badge. We expect them to uphold their oath. We trust them to know wrong from right and left from right," Eldridge said.
The state also told the jury the case isn’t about Wright or whether Potter intended to kill him, saying it’s about Potter recklessly and negligently shooting Wright.
"Members of the jury, there is no do-over when you walk the streets with a loaded firearm when you’re entrusted with a deadly weapon as part of your job. There’s no do-over when you take a young man’s life," Eldridge said.
After a 20-minute break, the defense laid out its case to the jury, saying Potter was following her training to save a fellow officer and simply grabbed her gun instead of the Taser.
"She said, ‘I’ll tase you, I’ll tase you.’ The language was direct, it was clear, it was unmistakable, and all Mr. Wright had to do was stop," defense attorney Paul Engh said to begin his opening statement.
He highlighted the fact that Potter’s partner, Sgt. Michael Johnson, was hanging onto Wright’s car as the situation unfolded on April 11 and Potter knew he could be seriously injured or killed if Wright drove away.
"So when she says, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser,’ and one last pause, the facts will show you Mr. Wright can stop, all he has to do is stop and he’d be with us, but he goes," Engh said.
Engh also said Potter pulled the gun’s trigger once instead of twice, pointing out that her Taser training says you pull the trigger once while training for a handgun says to pull the trigger twice.
"She made a mistake. This was an accident. She’s a human being but she had to do what she had to do to prevent a death to a fellow officer, too," Engh said.
While explaining who the defense will call to testify, Engh told the jurors they’ll hear that Potter was following her training and trying to save her partner and that she believed she was firing her Taser. He also explained how Wright was pulled over and why officers were arresting him, saying it’s more than just the air freshener and tabs and instead about a potentially violent person who may have had a gun and was possibly under the influence of marijuana.
Damik and Dallas Wright, Daunte’s brothers, were in the courtroom for Eldridge’s opening statement. Daunte’s sister, Diamond, was also in the courtroom before opening statements started. Potter’s husband, sister-in-law and brother were in attendance for Engh’s opening statement.
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