Kim Potter defense tells jury the officer was justified in using deadly force against Daunte Wright, even if she didn’t mean to…. Minnesota police officer Kim Potter was justified in using deadly force and shooting Daunte Wright, even if she didn’t know that she had a gun in her hand, her defense told the jury in her manslaughter trial.
Potter faces first -and second-degree manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Wright during an April traffic stop. Potter is on trial in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and has since resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Body-camera footage played for the jury earlier in the trial shows Potter warning, “Taser!” before shooting Wright in the chest while he sits down in the front seat of his car.
Defense attorney Earl Gray told the jury Monday in closing arguments that there were two reasons it should acquit Potter: Wright’s actions caused the shooting, and Potter had the right to use deadly force.
Gray emphasized that several police witnesses testified that Potter and a trainee officer, Anthony Luckey, lawfully pulled over Wright and attempted to arrest him on an existing warrant. Potter and Luckey did “everything procedurally right” during the traffic stop until Wright began resisting arrest, Gray said.
“When he got out of the car, Officer Luckey being a nice guy,” Gray said in court. “He could have taken him and thrown him against the car and put his knee on his neck.”
Gray said that Wright not listening to the officers when they asked him to put his hands behind his back was the “causation” of the fatal struggle. Lead prosecutor Matthew Frank later rebutted what he characterized as the “absurd” claim that Wright caused the struggle.
“If we accept that [Wright] caused his own death, then we have to accept that anytime a person does not meticulously follow the commands of a police officer they can be shot to death,” Frank told the jury.
The state had called a use-of-force expert who testified that Potter was not justified in using force against Wright, because Wright was operating a vehicle and could have caused an “unguided hazard.” After the shooting, Wright’s car traveled down the street and collided with another vehicle.
Gray told the jury that it was Wright’s choice to drive away after being shot and that Potter was not liable for Wright’s actions. He pointed to the testimony of the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Wright and who said Wright would have had “seconds to minutes” to live after the shooting.
“How could she be at fault for that, he purposely decided to drive away,” Gray said. “He just didn’t want to go to jail.”
In her closing argument, prosecutor Erin Eldridge said that Potter shooting Wright was not an accident, but a result of Potter’s negligence and recklessness. Gray said that it was impossible for Potter to recklessly handle her gun when she thought she had drawn her Taser.
“How could you recklessly handle it if you don’t know you have it?” Gray said to the jury.