The killing of Daunte Wright

Kimberly Potter trial: Wright girlfriend testifies on fatal police stop

Testimony will continue Friday morning at 10 a.m.

Daunte Wright Officer Trial
Alayna Albrecht-Payton, a passenger in Daunte Wright's car during a traffic stop testifies as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Thursday in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in Minneapolis.
Court TV, via AP pool

3 things to know:

  • Ex-Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges

  • Wright’s girlfriend, who was in the car that day, testified Thursday along with police and other first responders

  • Potter expected to testify in her defense

Updated 4:38 p.m.

Testimony resumed Thursday in the manslaughter trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer, in the killing of Daunte Wright. The morning began with the woman in the car with Wright when he was fatally shot.

Alayna Albrecht-Payton said she had just started dating Wright when they were pulled over by two officers including Kimberly Potter last April. Albrecht-Payton said she and Wright were both nervous during the stop.

"They would ask him to step out of the car and he kept asking them 'why?' 'Why do you want me to step out of the car?'“ she told jurors. “He kept asking what he did. And they kept telling him they wouldn't tell him until he got out of the car."

Albrecht-Payton said she remembered hearing a gun shot after officers scuffled with Wright, but not much more until Wright's car continued down the road and crashed and she tried to help him.

“I took my belt off and I grabbed like whatever was in the car, I don’t remember it was a sweater or a towel or blanket and put it on his chest like I, like you know you see in movies and TV shows,” she said tearfully. “I didn't know what to do so I just, I just put my hands over his chest and I just tried to hold it in.”

Prosecutors called police officers and paramedics to the stand on Thursday afternoon, questioning them about their response after Wright was shot.

Wright’s car crashed into another vehicle head-on after the shooting.Officers responding to the crash testified that they were largely unsure what had happened. They held Wright and his passenger at gunpoint for several minutes while they ensured there was no threat.

Officers then gave medical aid to Wright, although he had no pulse. Paramedics pronounced Wright dead at the scene.

Patricia Lundgren, an 84-year-old Brooklyn Park resident, testified she was on her way home when her vehicle, a Subaru, was struck by Wright's car. "All of the sudden he just cut across the lane in front of me," Lundgren said.

Lundgren was not injured but said her 86-year-old husband, Kenneth Lundgren, was in the passenger seat and was hurt. She said her  husband's health has greatly deteriorated since the crash and he is receives home hospice care.

At the end of the day, after the jury had left, Potter’s defense asked for a mistrial, saying that evidence presented Thursday from emergency responders isn't relevant to charges. Prosecutors said it showed how Potter's actions threatened others, including the crash afterwards, and backed up their request for a harsher sentence.

Judge Regina Chu denied the defense team's motion for a mistrial.

‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’

Potter, 49, faces first-degree and second-degree manslaughter charges in the killing of Wright as she and other Brooklyn Center officers, including one she was training, attempted to take Wright into custody during an April 11 traffic stop.

They’d pulled him over for an air freshener hanging from his car's rear view mirror and for expired license plate tabs. When they found he had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on a gross misdemeanor weapons violation, they began to arrest him.

Wright jumped back into the driver’s seat as officers tried to detain him. On police camera video, Potter can be heard yelling “Taser, Taser, Taser” but pointing her 9 mm gun before firing a single bullet into Wright’s chest; he drove off but crashed seconds later.

Potter has pleaded not guilty and is expected to testify in her defense during the trial.

Wright’s killing set off days of protests and property destruction in the Twin Cities suburb, with demonstrators saying Wright’s killing was an example of racial bias by police against Black people.

The most serious charge against Potter requires prosecutors to prove recklessness. The second-degree manslaughter charge alleges that Potter acted with culpable negligence when she fired into Wright’s vehicle.

The prosecution is not characterizing Wright's killing as racially motivated. But civil rights advocates have pointed to a long history of officers not being held accountable when they kill unarmed Black people. Potter is white. Wright was Black.

A jury of 14 people, including two white alternates, will hear the case. Nine of the 12 jurors likely to deliberate are white, one is Black and two are Asian.

On Wednesday, opening statements and witnesses brought intensity and drama to the Hennepin County courtroom where jurors saw police body camera and car dash camera video of the April 11 traffic stop, including Potter shooting Wright, the chaotic aftermath and his mother’s emotional arrival at the scene.

Reporter Matt Sepic reviews Wednesday's Potter trial proceedings

Prosecutors argued Potter acted recklessly in firing her service weapon in disregard of her substantial training and sworn duty.

“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,” prosecutor Erin Eldridge told jurors. “There’s no do-over when you take a young man’s life.”

Potter, she added, had received extensive training over her 26-year police career, including Taser training about a month before the traffic stop involving Wright.

Evidence presented during a trial
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge, who also served on the team prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, delivers opening statements during the trial of Kimberly Potter on Wednesday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

Defense attorneys argued that Potter meant to fire her Taser to subdue Wright, 20, but accidentally drew her service weapon and shot the man once in the chest, killing him.

“She made a mistake. This was an accident. She’s a human being,” attorney Paul Engh told jurors.

Potter, he said, acted at that moment out of a belief that her fellow officer, who had entered the car through the passenger side to try and grab the car’s gear shift, was in imminent danger of being hurt or killed if Wright was allowed to drive away.

A man stands behind a desk
Paul Engh gives the opening statement for the defense in the trial on Wednesday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

“All he had to do was surrender,” Engh said of Wright.

Trial basics

Who are the jurors for trial of Kimberly Potter?: The jurors who will hear testimony in former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter's trial in the death of Daunte Wright are a mostly white group, with two people who identify as Asian and one as Black. Here’s what we know about the jury.

8 key questions, answered: Kimberly Potter shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April. His killing set off days of protests and unrest in Brooklyn Center, with demonstrators saying Wright’s killing was an example of racial bias by police against Black people.

The charges: The former officer is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. Here’s a look at what the charges mean and the potential penalties. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of just over seven years on the first-degree manslaughter count and four years on the second-degree one.

Questions about the trial? Ask us.