A police sergeant at the scene when Daunte Wright was fatally shot by now-former police officer Kim Potter in a Minneapolis suburb has testified that he held his arm to stop him from driving away, as jurors in her trial for manslaughter saw extensive footage of the aftermath of the shooting and her emotional reactions.
Ms Potter, formerly of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, has argued that she meant to draw her Taser when she shot Mr Wright with her service firearm after pulling him over on 11 April. She is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for his death, after he was pulled over for an expired licence plate and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.
She could face up to seven years in prison if convicted in the first degree and four years in the second degree, though prosecutors have indicated they will argue for longer sentences outside current guidelines. She has pleaded not guilty; prosecutors have not argued that Ms Potter intentionally shot Mr Wright.
The closely watched trial follows the murder of George Floyd by another Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin, and a wave of police brutality protests demanding justice for law enforcement killings of Black men. Ms Potter is white; Mr Wright was Black.
On the third day of the trial on 10 December, Mychal Johnson testified that he opened the passenger side to Wright’s door after he saw another officer struggling with him, then leaned into the car and held onto his arm.
He said he held the 20-year-old’s arm with both hands believing an officer would place him in handcuffs, then released when he heard Ms Potter yell “Taser, Taser, Taser.”
Body camera footage shows Mr Johnson using both hands to hold Mr Wright’s hand and arm as Ms Potter yells “Taser, Taser, Taser.”
Mr Johnson testified that he then heard a “loud pop”.
After Mr Wright was shot, the car moved down the street and crashed into another vehicle.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank pointed out that Mr Johnson did not draw either his own Taser or gun at the scene. Mr Johnson, who is now employed with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office, testified that policy prohibits the use of Tasers against people behind the wheel to avoid an accident. Mr Wright’s car was not moving when he was shot.
Mr Johnson testified that he took Ms Potter’s gun from her after the shooting, then handed her his own.
Moments later, after another officer feared that she would use the gun to harm herself, he “discreetly asked” her for the firearm and “was able to remove the magazine and one round in the chamber so at that time there were no rounds in the chamber,” he told the jury.
He said he believes that Ms Potter had the right to use deadly force against Mr Wright to prevent him from driving away and harming him.
Jurors also saw extensive footage of the scene after the shooting from Mr Johnson’s body camera, which shows him trying to comfort Ms Potter as she cries and holds her head in her hands.
Additional reporting by agencies