Prosecutors in Kim Potter Trial Presenting an Anatomy of a Mistake

Screen Shot from YouTube Page/ NBC News

Former Brooklyn Center (MN) Police Officer Kim Potter testified on Friday in her manslaughter trial. Last April, Potter asserts she inadvertently mistook her firearm for a Taser when she shot and killed Daunte Wright after he resisted arrest for a warrant and attempted to drive away with an officer trapped in the car.

During the stop, it was discovered that Wright had a gross misdemeanor arrest warrant for a weapons violation. Potter and Officer Anthony Luckey attempted to arrest Wright, who became combative. Sgt. Mycal Johnson was also on the scene and attempted to handcuff Wright by leaning across a female passenger in the car.

In the video, just before the shooting, viewers can hear Potter shout, “Taser, Taser, Taser!” Then, she fired once, striking Wright, who drove off and crashed further up the street and later died.

Potter says, “Sh** I shot him.” Distraught, she drops to the planting strip, sobbing. Sgt. Johnson tries to console her, saying, “Kim, take a breath. Kim, you’re okay. Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car.”

This element is not insignificant. Officers knew Wright’s warrant involved a weapons violation, heightening their awareness. Wright was also the respondent in a protection order involving a woman victim. Because of that, further investigation into who the female passenger was, was policy. Wright also attempted to drive off with Sgt. Johnson partially inside the vehicle. As Sgt. Johnson noted, Potter was within her authority to use lethal force because of this factor.

Using restraint rather than the lethal force she’s allowed under the circumstances, she claims she intended to use what she thought was a less-than-lethal force — a Taser.

It appears Potter, though she made a grave error, seemed to be performing her duties in good faith. Sgt. Johnson seemed to have felt he was in extreme danger when Wright attempted to drive off with him still leaning into the car.

The prosecutor’s approach seems to be rather than a mistake the shooting was because Potter had malice. The prosecutor conducted an anatomy of an error.  Evidence suggests Potter had intended to do the right thing under stressful and split-second circumstances. Even the most competent people occasionally make honest mistakes, especially under extreme conditions.

Potter became emotional whenever the defense attorney or prosecutor broached the details of when she fired the shot that killed Wright. She repeatedly apologized, saying she never wanted to hurt anyone.

The prosecutor challenged her. “After you shot, you didn’t behave like someone who had just saved Sgt. Johnson’s life, did you?” That was not Potter’s argument. It was a fact that became clear afterward.

She said Potter didn’t check to see if Sgt. Johnson was okay. But evidence suggests he was okay since he was the one comforting her immediately after the shooting.

The prosecutor added Potter didn’t say something like, “Thank God I shot that guy. I saved your life, right?” Generally, this seemed disrespectful to police officers if she thinks cops talk like that.

Is that even relevant when Potter already said she shot Wright by mistake?

Potter testified she saw the fear in Sgt. Johnson’s face when Wright tried to drive away with him in the car. That’s when she acted, firing what she thought was a Taser but was her firearm. That doesn’t change learning later lethal force was appropriate in that circumstance. The prosecutor’s comments show the prosecution’s weakness in a case that should never have been brought.

It seems the prosecution is attempting a diversion. Potter is being tried for making a mistake that, had the shooting been intentional, as former Police Chief Tim Gannon said, it would have been justified. It seems the prosecution rebuked her for intending to use a lesser level of force.

Ultimately, if Daunte Wright had not failed to cooperate with police and resisted arrest, putting the officers and his passenger at risk, Potter’s use-of-force, intended or mistaken, would not have been necessary.

  1. I have to agree with Brandon’s appreciation of this incident in his recent video. Potter just isn’t mentally equipped for this sort of thing.

    If she is to be believed, she freaked out to the point where she had no idea what she was doing. There is much difference between the feel, manipulation and use of a taser, and it was worn on the opposite side of her duty belt from her pistol — if she didn’t know which she was using, she didn’t know anything.

    This is not the sort of person who should be a police officer. An officer has to remain composed in stressful and violent situations, and be able to think and act rationally — not lose touch with reality and end up sobbing hysterically (and of no further use as a police officer) after realizing she unintentionally shot someone.

    Potter isn’t guilty of the crimes she’s charged with according to what would have to be proven to fit the definition of the law, but she should never again be involved in police work where similar things could happen with less favorable results. She accidentally did the public a service by ridding the world of a thug, but regardless of how many years she got by with it, she hasn’t the temperament and self-control required of a police officer in violent situations.

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