Kim Potter Trial: Former Officer’s Supervisor Testifies She Was Justified Using Deadly Force

11December 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)– The snow started coming down shortly after noon in downtown Minneapolis. Because of the weather, the judge presiding over the Kim Potter trial ended testimony early Friday.

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April.

Body-worn camera video from the supervising sergeant on the scene of the traffic stop showed the moments before and after the shooting. It was footage the public had never seen or heard before.

Sgt. Mychal Johnson said Potter used deadly force to save his life.

“Dante you are under arrest,” Johnson said, in the video.

The words spoken by Johnson set into motion an attempt to flee by Wright.

Body worn camera footage shows different angles of the incident where Johnson, inside the passenger side of the car, leans over the female passenger to reach the shift knob making sure it was in park.

When Wright got back in the car, video shows his struggle with Potter and officer Anthony Luckey.

Johnson grabs Wright’s hand in an attempt to get him ready for handcuffs. That’s when he heard the command given by Potter.

“I’m going to Taser you, I’m going to Taser you…Taser! Taser! Taser!” Potter said.

“I let go of his right arm…I didn’t know where those Taser probes were going, and I didn’t want my hand in between them,” Johnson said.

Johnson says he did not know Potter shot Wright until she admitted she did.

It was Potter’s reaction after she fired her weapon and not her Taser that took center stage in the video.

“Oh my God, what have I done,” Potter says.

Johnson can be seen and heard trying to calm Potter down.

She was distraught. At one point, you can hear her say, “Let me kill myself.”

Johnson took Potter’s weapon, put it in his holster and gave her his weapon to put in her holster.

Concern from a fellow officer about her state of mind sent Johnson back to Potter to take the bullets out of the weapon he had given her.

“Kim, can you see I’m giving you my gun real quick, I’m going to give it right back to you,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he did not remember what he said to comfort Potter but it was captured on body camera.

“Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car,” Johnson said.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank countered by raising the need for officers to be aware of their surroundings before firing a weapon, pointing out how close Johnson, Potter and the vehicles’ occupants were to one another.

The trial resumes Monday at 9 a.m.

(WCCO/AP) — Testimony enters its third day in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.

After a day of new body camera footage from the day of the incident and compelling testimony from Wright’s passenger in the vehicle, the state is calling more witnesses to the stand.

Below are updates, beginning with the latest.

——-

UPDATE (2:37 p.m.) – Afternoon testimony started with Brooklyn Center Police Acting Chief Tony Gruenig, who was questioned mostly on procedural practices and standard routines for officer-involved shootings.

The next witness called to the stand was Agent Mike Phill with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Credit: CBS

Phill is in charge of the use-of-force unit with the BCA and was the first agent on scene of the shooting. During his questioning, the defense objects multiple times, citing “heresay.” Chu tells Phill not to describe information he heard from someone else.

Phill explains that he was on the scene until after 7 p.m., and agents took Wright’s car back to BCA headquarters in St. Paul. He describes the evidence that the BCA collected, which included firearm forensic evidence and evidence from the autopsy.

Defense does not cross-examine Phill, and court adjourns for the day due to an oncoming snow storm. The trial will start back up on Monday at 9 a.m.

UPDATE (12:25 p.m.) — Defense begins cross-examination of Officer Mychal Johnson. Attorney Earl Gray asks Johnson about Wright’s arrest.

“He kept resisting, right?” Gray asks, and Johnson agrees. He asks what an officer should do when someone is resisting. Johnson says an officer is supposed to “put them under arrest” and if they try to get away, “use force.”

Gray asks whether Wright gave up during the arrest at any point, and Johnson says no, he didn’t. In effect, Johnson has testified that Potter was justified in using deadly force in that moment.

Frank, in attempting to re-direct Johnson, asks “Could Officer Potter, in using a firearm, have shot you?” Johnson says it’s “possible.” The defense team objects at this point and Chu sustains. Prosecution asks for a sidebar.

“I don’t know what she was thinking at the time,” Johnson says about the moment Potter grabbed the Glock instead of the Taser.

Attorneys Frank and Gray go back and forth multiple times, questioning Johnson further. Gray asks about hollow-point bullets, and if police use them because they will only travel so far. Johnson agrees. Gray asks if a car an be a weapon. “Yes,” Johnson says.

With his second redirection, Frank asks if hollow-point bullets are also able to affect the damage done inside the person struck by them. Johnson agrees, and again Gray objects.

Gray’s final cross-examination involves him asking if Wright’s vehicle was moving when Potter shot him. Johnson says it wasn’t.

With the jury out of the courtroom to take their lunch break, Chu asks if the prosecution team is aware of the defense’s objections to the autopsy photos intended to be entered into evidence. The issue may be resolved during lunch break. Court is scheduled to resume at 1:30 p.m., unless Chu decides the weather is enough of a factor to call an early end to Friday’s proceedings.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m.) — Prosecution opens the day with the testimony of Major Mychal Johnson, who was a patrol supervisor on the day of the shooting. He left the Brooklyn Center Police Department in October of 2021, and currently works for the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson was Potter’s supervisor on April 11, and said he arrived on scene after Officer Luckey and Potter pulled over Daunte Wright’s car. After a conversation with Luckey, he learned Wright had a gross misdemeanor warrant for a weapons possession and determined that Luckey would arrest Wright.

Credit: CBS

Throughout the testimony, Attorney Matthew Frank shows Johnson’s body camera and squad car footage, starting with the moment Johnson arrives on scene.

Johnson explained he approached Wright’s car with the two other officers. He was on the passenger side and opened the door to make sure the car was in a “park” position.

He said Luckey told Wright to get out of the car, which he did, but Wright eventually got back into the car after learning he was under arrest. Johnson reached over and grabbed Wright’s arm, heard the verbal command of “Taser Taser Taser,” and then said he “heard a loud pop,” which he believed at the time was the pop of the Taser.

He learned that Potter fired her gun after Wright drove away and Potter said she had shot him. Then, realizing he would be an “involved officer” in the shooting, called for backup and another supervisor to take over the scene.

In the body camera video, Potter asks Johnson to “call Chuck,” who, according to Johnson, is Potter’s union representative. The defense objects to discussion about Potter’s union membership, arguing that it is irrelevant. After a brief sidebar, Judge Chu rules that Potter’s union status is not relevant, and tells the jury to disregard any testimony about it.

Frank then continues to play Johnson’s body camera video, during which Potter can be heard saying “let me kill myself.”

Johnson said he told another officer to stay with Potter, and explains that he took the ammunition out of his gun and swapped it with Potter’s. The gun Potter used was in Johnson’s holster until it was taken into evidence by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Chu then decides to take a mid-morning break. After the jury leaves the room, she tells the prosecution that she will start regularly sustaining objections from the defense to video evidence that is cumulative.

UPDATE (8:15 a.m.) — The pool reporter in court Friday has confirmed that the prosecution will introduce into evidence autopsy photos of Daunte Wright, and they will be shown in court as lawyers question the medical examiner.

The photos will be shown in the courtroom but will not be transmitted or published beyond there.

UPDATE (6 a.m.) — The first week of testimony in the Kim Potter trial will wrap up Friday after jurors saw lots of bodycam footage of what happened after the shooting.

After the jury walked out, the defense asked the judge for a mistrial. They say most of the evidence presented had nothing to do with the case against former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank pointed out that the state is seeking an aggravated sentence for Potter if she’s convicted, and to do so must show the wider impact of her actions. Judge Regina Chu quickly dismissed the motion, though she did tell prosecutors to avoid showing the jury duplicate autopsy pictures.

Frank, the prosecutor, said the post-shooting evidence is aimed at showing that Potter’s actions created a danger to others beyond Wright — something the state will have to prove as it seeks a longer sentence for Potter than is called for under the state’s guidelines.

Chu ruled that the state must eliminate duplicate autopsy photos, and that any images of Wright with his eyes open must be blacked out above the nose.

“The jury is not supposed to be deciding this case based upon sympathy, passion or anything of that sort,” she said.

Earlier, for the very first time, we heard from the woman in the passenger seat when Daunte Wright was pulled over and shot by police, Alayna Albrecht-Payton.

“He had his arms folded and he was just gasping,” she testified. “I replay that image in my head daily.”

Albrecht-Payton also apologized to Katie Bryant, Wright’s mother, who had called his phone trying to re-establish contact after a call with him was cut off right before he was shot. Bryant testified tearfully a day earlier that she first saw her son’s apparently lifeless body via that video call.

“I pointed the camera on him,” Albrecht-Payton said. “And I’m so sorry I did that.”

The prosecution also entered a lot of graphic video evidence and photos from the officers who first arrived on the scene after Wright had crashed his car.

The trial will start up again Friday at 10 a.m.

First-degree manslaughter requires prosecutors to prove Potter acted recklessly. Second-degree requires them to prove culpable negligence. Neither charge requires proof that she intended to kill. State sentencing guidelines call for just over seven years in prison on the first charge and four years on the other.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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