MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — A worsening snowstorm brought an early end to this week’s proceedings in former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter’s manslaughter trial, which included testimony from Daunte Wright’s loved ones, a family whose vehicle was struck by his out-of-control car and several first responders.
Potter is on trial for first- and second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s April death. The 26-year veteran and former police union head shot Wright in the abdomen during a traffic stop in April, shortly after threatening to use her Taser stun gun and shouting, “Taser, Taser, Taser.” Wright’s death threw a firebomb into the already tense Twin Cities metro, which was in the throes of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial for the death of George Floyd a year prior.
Friday’s most dramatic testimony came from Mychal Johnson, the Brooklyn Center Police Department’s patrol sergeant on duty at the time of Wright’s killing. Johnson arrived on the scene in response to a call for backup from the trainee officer who initiated Wright’s traffic stop, Anthony Luckey. He said that when Potter shot Wright, he was leaning into the car and grabbing Wright’s arm in an effort to restrain him and prevent him from driving away.
Johnson, now with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office south of the Twin Cities, said that Wright’s apparent effort to flee with Johnson in the car was sufficient to justify the use of deadly force.
“If he had taken off with you in that car halfway,” Potter’s attorney Earl Gray asked Johnson, “What do you think would be the worst that would happen?”
Johnson said that he would probably be dragged. After further questioning from Gray he said he ran the risk of being seriously injured or killed.
“If that were the case,” Gray asked, “would an officer in your position, with officer Potter trying to stop [Wright] from resisting with you and resisting Luckey, would it be fair for that officer to use a firearm?”
“By state statute, yes,” Johnson replied.
Johnson’s statement bolstered the defense’s contention that Potter exercised restraint in only seeking to use her Taser. Potter's other attorney Paul Engh said in opening statements that the defense would seek to show that while firing her Glock was an accident, Potter was within her rights to do so.
Friday’s proceedings concluded with testimony from acting Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tony Gruenig, who was a commander at the time of Wright’s death. Gruenig’s testimony was far briefer than Johnson’s, and focused largely on the procedure used to report uses of deadly force to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which handles investigations of police shootings in the state. An agent from the Bureau followed Gruenig with his own account of that investigation.
Testimony began Wednesday with Wright’s mother Katie Bryant and Luckey. Cold and snowy weather came late to the Twin Cities this week, possibly contributing to the muted protest response to the controversial trial. That hasn’t stopped Brooklyn Center’s school district from extending its winter break in light of the trial or police from preparing for possible renewed civil unrest.
Thursday saw the most witnesses take the stand of any day so far. Prosecutors walked the jury through the scene first from the perspective of Wright’s girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, who was in the car with him at the time, and then through the eyes and body cameras of several police officers who arrived on the scene in response to a confused series of calls.