Updated: 4:35 p.m.
The former Brooklyn Center police officer on trial for killing Daunte Wright testified Friday that she reacted after perceiving another officer’s concern.
Kimberly Potter, 49, broke down frequently on the stand when asked to recall shooting the 20-year-old.
The officer with 26 years’ experience is charged with two counts of manslaughter in Wright’s death during an April traffic stop.
Potter and another officer were trying to arrest Wright on a misdemeanor firearms warrant on April 11 when he got back into his car after initially complying with police requests. On body camera video, Potter is heard threatening to stun Wright, but instead she fired her handgun.
Potter said she remembers officers struggling with Wright after he got back into the driver’s seat and seeing her colleague on the other side of the car with “a look of fear on his face” like “nothing I’ve seen before.”
“It just went chaotic,” Potter said, breaking into tears. “And I remember yelling ‘Taser, Taser, Taser,’ and nothing happened, and then he told me I’d shot him.”
Under questioning by prosecuting attorney Erin Eldridge, Potter initially didn’t agree that her hand was on her gun as she approached Wright’s vehicle, but said it was possible after being shown a photo from the squad camera.
Eldridge asked Potter a series of questions: “You never saw a weapon on Mr. Wright, did you? Never saw a gun? He never threw a punch? Never kicked anyone? Never said ‘I’m going to kill you?’ Never said ‘I’m going to shoot you?’ Never said ‘There’s a gun in the car, and I’m coming after you?’” Potter responded “No” after each question.
Potter said she didn’t remember a comment captured on body camera after the shooting about how she was going to go to prison. She testified that the next thing she remembers, she was at the Brooklyn Center Police Department. She also said she had not fired her handgun or Taser while on duty before confronting Wright.
The former officer started crying as prosecutors replayed bodycam footage of the moments leading up to Wright’s shooting.
Eldridge also questioned Potter on her actions following the shooting, that she did not follow Wright’s car as it crashed into another vehicle, or ask whether other officers at the scene were hurt.
“You were focused on what you had done because you had just killed somebody,” Eldridge said, as Potter wept and exclaimed, “I’m sorry it happened. I’m so sorry.”
Potter responded, “No” and “I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” when Eldridge persisted, “You didn't plan to use deadly force that day, did you? … Because you knew that deadly force was unreasonable and unwarranted in this circumstance.”
Earlier in the Potter’s testimony, defense attorney Earl Gray walked her through her interest in becoming a police officer as a child and her career including as a training officer, which she was on the day of Wright’s killing.
Gray also called a defense witness to explain why a person might mistake a Taser for handgun even after training on both. Psychologist Laurence Miller said police departments can reduce the likelihood of errors by using Tasers that are visually distinct from handguns.
“The broader point is it’s unrealistic to expect zero errors in any profession. Our goal as responsible professionals is to bring that number as low as possible,” Miller said.
Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Monday. The jury will receive the case after that.
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