Kim Potter, the former officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, is expected to testify in her own defense after the prosecution rested its case on Thursday.
The state presented more than two dozen witnesses over six days, including a policing expert who testified Wednesday that Potter was not justified in using deadly force when she fatally shot Wright in April.
Video of the April 11 shooting shows officers had pulled over Wright and tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant when he got back in his vehicle and attempted to flee. Potter pulled out her firearm and shot him — later admitting she meant to use her Taser instead.
“I grabbed the wrong f**king gun and I shot him,” she said after the shooting, which happened near the courthouse where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for killing George Floyd.
Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina School of Law associate professor testifying for the state at Potter’s manslaughter trial, called her actions “excessive and inappropriate.”
“The use of deadly force was not appropriate and the evidence suggests that a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” the law professor testified.
Stoughton, who also testified for the state at Chauvin’s trial, told jurors the deadly force used against Wright would have been proportional but “inappropriate because of the proximity of two other officers and the passenger.”
“The available evidence leads me to conclude that a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position would not have concluded that there was an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm and thus, that the use of deadly force was excessive, that is disproportionate to the threat presented,” Stoughton testified.
“And regardless of whether the reasonable officer would have perceived an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm, the use of deadly force under the circumstances was inappropriate because of the danger that it created to the other two officers and the passenger in Mr. Wright’s vehicle.”
Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for killing Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. Potter, who is White, has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors have argued Potter was negligent and acted recklessly in mistaking her gun for the Taser.
Her defense has characterized the killing as an accident but argued she was within her rights to use deadly force to protect another officer — an assertion prosecutors sought to counter with Stoughton’s testimony.
The last witness on Wednesday was Wright’s father, Arbuey, who fought back tears when prosecutors showed photos of him and his son. He recalled supervising his son at a store — “At work, I was his boss and home I’m your dad.”
And the elder Wright described his son’s joy at becoming a father. “He was so happy,” Arbuey Wright recalled. “He loved his son.”
Earlier Wednesday, a sergeant who trains police officers testified Potter’s use of a Taser would have been a “reasonable use of force.”
Brooklyn Center Police Sgt. Michael Peterson, who trains officers on Taser use, testified that, while the use of such a device would have been reasonable during the Wright traffic stop, officers can also use deadly force to stop suspects trying to get away.
The decision on what type of force to use — a Taser or handgun, for instance — “has to be made in a very short amount of time,” Peterson, a witness for the state, testified under cross-examination.
“Mistakes can happen when someone confuses a Taser with a gun?” defense attorney Paul Engh asked the sergeant. “Correct,” Peterson said.
Peterson said using a Taser to stop Wright would have been a “reasonable use of force.”
“If that was a training scenario that was put in front of me or one that I created for my officers, the use of a Taser would have been reasonable under those circumstances,” the sergeant told Engh during cross-examination.
Peterson told jurors that Potter at the time was using a new Taser that had come out at the beginning of 2021. She had never used a Taser in the field before, he testified.