AMY FORLITY and SCOTT BAUER
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnapolis suburb policeman who shot Dount Wright testified in Friday’s manslaughter trial that she would not have stopped his car if she hadn’t been training another officer and that she hadn’t planned on using lethal force in that day.
During the interrogation of the attorney, Kim Potter sobbed during her sometimes emotional testimony, sometimes saying, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” and later, “I’m really sorry that this happened.”
Potter was the last witness before the defense settled down at the end of the second week of testimony. She said she shot Wright on April 11 at the Brooklyn Center in a moment of chaos after he tried to leave the scene when she and other officers tried to arrest him on the basis of an unfulfilled warrant for violation of weapons.
Potter, 49, said she was about to use her stun gun to pacify Wright when he pulled away from the officers and returned to his car, but instead shot him with a pistol.
Potter’s lawyers argued that she had made a mistake, but lethal force would have also been justified if she had intended to do so, because another officer was in danger of being dragged down by Wright’s car. Potter testified that she chose to use her stun gun due to the frightened look she saw in one of the officer’s other two eyes.
Potter said she shouted “Electrocutioner!” repeatedly to have other officers who were trying to get Wright out of his vehicle to pull out of the fight.
Prosecutors say Potter was a seasoned officer with extensive training in the use of stun guns and lethal force, and that her actions were unfounded.
During cross-examination, Attorney Erin Eldridge worked hard to train Potter, forcing her to agree that her training in the use of force was a “key component” of being an officer. Potter testified that she was also trained in when and to what extent to use force, and that there were policies that dictated what officers might or might not do.
Potter was shown photographs of her stun gun and firearms next to each other. The stun gun was yellow and the pistol black. Eldridge noted that a loaded gun is heavier than a stun gun.
“So you went out into the street with a stun gun, not knowing what he did?” Eldridge asked Potter.
“I assume that the day I work, I will know. But I don’t know – it’s been months now, ”Potter replied.
Potter testified during interrogation by one of her lawyers that she did not have training on “gun confusion,” saying that it was mentioned in the training but was not something that her department officers were physically trained to do. She also said that she had never used a stun gun while on duty in the 26 years in the military, although she had taken it out several times, and that she had never used her pistol until the day she shot Wright.
Potter, who trained Officer Anthony Lucky, said that Lucky spotted Wright’s car in the headland with the signal turned on incorrectly, and then saw air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror, as well as expired tags.
She said Lucky wanted to stop the car, although she “most likely” would not have done so if she had patrolled herself, citing lengthy delays for Minnesota drivers to update vehicle tags at the time of the pandemic. But she said that after they discovered that Wright had a warrant for a gun violation, they were required to arrest him because the warrant “was a court order.”
She said they also had to find out who Wright’s passenger was, because the woman – another, as it turned out – had issued a restraining order on him.
While defense attorney Earl Gray walked her through what happened that day, he did not ask her if she was going to draw her stun gun. A prosecution witness testified earlier this week that she would not choose to use her stun gun if she believed there was a risk that it could result in death or serious injury.
Potter, who retired two days after the shooting, burst into tears when she said the traffic stop “just got chaotic” after Wright tried to get back in his car and drive away. She cried as she described the shooting and was flustered when Eldridge showed a video of her pointing a gun at Wright. She was down-to-earth for most of the cross-examination and gave short answers.
When questioned by her own lawyer, Potter said she did not remember everything that happened after the shooting, including what she said or was in the ambulance.
“So much is missing,” she said of her memory.
She said that after the shooting, she was undergoing therapy, left Minnesota and no longer works for the police. And she said she quit the police force because “so much bad was going on there. … I didn’t want anything bad to happen to the city. “
Before Potter spoke, a witness called by her lawyers testified that police officers may mistakenly draw pistols instead of their stun guns in stressful situations because their experience takes over.
Lawrence Miller, a psychologist who teaches at Florida Atlantic University, said on Friday that the more someone repeats the same activity, the less they need to think about it, and that during a stressful situation circumstances can arise in which normal reactions a person can be “stolen”. “
Wright’s death sparked angry demonstrations at Brooklyn Center for several days. This happened when another white officer, Derek Choven, was brought to trial in nearby Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd.
Miller said that when a person learns a new skill, the memory of the old skill can override it, resulting in an “action error,” in which the planned action has an unintended effect.
“You intend to do one thing, you think you are doing it, but you are doing something else, and only later do you realize that the action you intended to do was not the one you took,” he said.
Some experts are skeptical about the theory. Jeffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who is not involved in the Potter trial, said there was no science behind it.
During cross-examination, Eldridge read an article he wrote in 2010 to Miller describing how the police can avoid what he called “one big mistake.” He wrote that many of these mistakes can be prevented with proper training and practice.
The defense began its version on Thursday.
The case is heard mostly by a white jury.
Associated Press contributors Tammy Webber of Fenton, Michigan and Steve Karnovski of Minneapolis contributed to this report.
Find full coverage of the Dunte Wright case at AP: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright