Three women connected to each other by three well-known killings of Black men by police met again in a Minneapolis hotel, on the eve of the latest trial of one of the former officers.
Katie Wright, whose son, Daunte, was shot to death by former Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter, thanked the group.
“Everybody who has been there for us, standing with us,” Wright said to the group of several women. “I just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ on behalf of our family.”
Potter’s trial for first and second-degree manslaughter begins in a Minneapolis courtroom on Tuesday.
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Both of Daunte Wright’s parents are expected to be called as witnesses.
Katie Wright was joined at the news conference from Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, by Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, shot by a St. Anthony police officer in 2016. Castile was killed during a traffic stop, as was Wright.
George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross said she was once Daunte Wright’s teacher at Edison High School. Ross said people in law enforcement should be held to a higher standard. Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in 2020.
“In all of my years working in education I never mistook a sticker for a stapler, there is no excuse for her incompetence when it comes to someone’s life,” Ross said, referring to Potter.
Body camera footage released by the former Brooklyn Center police chief on the day after the April 11 killing shows Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police force, yelling ‘Taser’ three times after Wright broke free of another officer’s grip and got back into his vehicle.
But Potter was holding her handgun and shot Wright to death.
Family members said he was on his way to get his car washed when police stopped him.
Katie Wright has said her son called her for his insurance information after police pulled him over. She also recalled Wright saying he was stopped for having air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror.
Police later said Wright was stopped for expired registration tabs, and officers soon discovered he had missed a court date for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge.
“And then when I called back the girl he had in the car answered the phone, it was on a Facetime, and she was crying and screaming and said ‘they shot him’. Then she pointed the phone toward the driver’s seat and my son was laying there, unresponsive.”
News that Potter, 49, who is white had killed an unarmed Black man, spurred protests outside of Brooklyn Center police headquarters for several nights. Miles away, Chauvin, also white, was standing trial in the killing of Floyd, who was handcuffed and held on the ground as he stopped breathing.
Attorney Jeff Storms is part of the legal team representing Daunte Wright’s family. Storms also represented members of the Floyd family.
“Are we prepared to hold a white officer accountable when she says it was an accident?” Storms said.
Race, policing and implicit bias may be part of the ongoing national conversation, but race may not be found relevant in a legal case, said Georgetown law professor Angi Porter. Porter, who also is an attorney, said the state has to show the former officer was reckless, or culpably negligent.
“They’re going to do that by bringing in her background, her training, her expertise,” Porter said, and “this should not have happened,” Porter said.
Prosecutors plan to introduce evidence from four incidents when Potter correctly drew her Taser, including two where she activated the weapon.
Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank, who also prosecuted Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, has maintained Potter had proper Taser training.
Potter’s attorneys are expected to argue that her “perceived use of a Taser was reasonable” and that there is a lack of causation, meaning Wright is also partly to blame for his own death. Attorney Paul Engh wrote “a police officer’s accidental shot is not a crime.”
The defense could choose to rely heavily on Potter’s body camera footage.
“She said ‘I am going to go to prison’, five minutes later she said ‘I killed a boy’, all of this is consistent with being in shock and being remorseful,” Porter, the law professor, said.
It’s not clear if Potter will choose to testify. Trial testimony and deliberations are expected to last about two weeks. If convicted, Potter could serve up to 15 years in prison.