Kim Potter trial: 3rd officer at deadly traffic stop testifies
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Witness testimony entered a third day Friday in the trial of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop earlier this year. FOX 9 is streaming the Potter trial live, gavel to gavel, at fox9.com/live and on the FOX 9 YouTube channel and the FOX 9 News App.
Three witnesses testified on Friday, including former Brooklyn Center police sergeant Mychal Johnson who was the third police officer at the deadly traffic stop that took Wright's life. The defense has said Officer Johnson had some of his body inside Daunte Wright's car at time of the shooting and that Kim Potter may have saved his life.
Judge Regina Chu cut testimony short due to the snowstorm. She reminded the jurors they are not allowed to discuss the case or consume any news about the trial over the weekend. Court is adjourned until 9 a.m. CT Monday.
READ NEXT: What to know about the Kim Potter trial
Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Wright during a traffic stop on April 11. The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter, who is white, mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. But, prosecutors say Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
The deadly shooting sparked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Potter’s defense team said the former officer will take the stand in her own defense.
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Sgt. Johnson: ‘That guy was trying to take off with me in the car’
Former Brooklyn Center police sergeant Mychal Johnson was the first witness to testify on Friday. He was the third officer involved in the deadly traffic stop; he had responded to Officer Anthony Luckey’s call for assistance.
Johnson was Potter’s supervisor at the time of the shooting as well as her friend. He is no longer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department; now a major with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors played Johnson’s body and dash camera video showing the moments leading up to when the trio approached Wright’s car to arrest him. Johnson had responded to Luckey’s call for help at the scene.
Johnson said he learned Wright had a gross misdemeanor warrant for a weapons violation and that there was suspected marijuana residue on the center console.
In the Potter camera video, Potter is heard saying, "Aren’t those the Wright brothers? Not the ones that fly, but the other ones?" Johnson testified that he was not familiar with them.
The three officers approached Wright’s vehicle. Johnson testified that while Luckey was attempting to arrest Wright, he opened the passenger door to make sure the vehicle was in park and the car was turned off so Wright and his girlfriend could not leave.
Johnson said Wright began to resist arrest and got back into the vehicle. He told the court he thought Wright was going to drive away, so he let go of the gear shift and grabbed his arm.
Johnson said he heard Potter shout, "Taser, Taser, Taser," and heard a loud pop, which is when he let go of Wright. He thought Potter had fired her Taser. Wright then drove off and crashed his car a short time later.
Over an objection from the defense, prosecutors played additional body camera footage showing Johnson attempting to comfort a distraught Potter after the shooting. Potter can be heard saying, "I’m going to go to prison."
"Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me off with me in the car," Johnson said while radioing updates. He called for additional units, telling dispatch, "shots fired."
Johnson testified that he took Potter’s gun for evidence and gave her his own firearm for reassurance. Later, after additional officers responded to the scene and expressed concern that Potter could "harm herself," Johnson took his weapon back from Potter, unloaded it and re-holstered it for her with no ammunition.
Potter authorized to use deadly force, Sgt. Johnson testifies
Defense attorney Earl Gray cross-examined Johnson. In the defense’s opening statement, attorney Paul Engh had said if Potter had done nothing, Wright would have driven away with Johnson still in the car and would have hurt or killed him.
Johnson testified that he would have been "probably dragged" and seriously injured or killed if Wright had taken off with him in the car. He said Potter would have been authorized to use deadly force against Wright under those circumstances.
Day 2 recap
On Thursday, jurors heard from Wright's girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, who was riding in the car with him when he was shot. She told the court her boyfriend "was really scared" about the traffic stop and did not want to get out of the car. Under cross-examination, she confirmed she and Wright smoked marijuana before the traffic stop.
The state also called the two Brooklyn Center police officers who responded to the ensuing crash after Wright was shot, including one who witnessed it happen right in front of him and another officer who performed life-saving measures on Wright. Several paramedics also testified.
The day wrapped up Potter’s lawyers asking for a mistrial, but Judge Chu denied the motion.
Brooklyn Center police chief, BCA agent testify
Acting Brooklyn Center Police Tony Gruenig took the stand after the lunch break. He took over the role after the resignation of Tim Gannon following Wright’s deadly shooting. Gannon released Potter’s body camera video of the traffic stop and was the first to publicly say the shooting was a tragic accident, that Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Mike Phill was the last witness to testify on Friday before court was adjourned. He explained to the jury how the BCA investigates officer-involved shootings.
Who are the jurors?
Fourteen jurors were seated for the Potter trial--12 jurors and two alternates. The jury is made up of seven men and seven women. Three of the jurors are people of color while the rest are white.
The following jurors have been seated on the jury:
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 50s. Works as an editor in neurology dealing with medical evidence. Testified that he has an unfavorable view of "Blue Lives Matter." Has always wanted to serve on a jury.
- Juror No. 6: White woman in her 60s. Retired special education teacher. She lost one of her four children two years ago to breast cancer.
- Juror No. 7: White man, 29 years old. Overnight operations manager at Target and bass guitar player in a local alternative rock band. Took a firearms safety class when he was a teenager.
- Juror No. 11: Asian woman in her 40s. Works in downtown Minneapolis and said she was concerned about the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
- Juror No. 17: White woman in her 20s. Has little prior knowledge about the case or legal system.
- Juror No. 19: Black woman in her 30s. Mother of two and a teacher. Owns a gun with a permit and a Taser for personal protection.
- Juror No. 21: White man in his 40s. Father with previous experience serving on a jury.
- Juror No. 22: White man in his 60s. Registered nurse for over 25 years, currently studying to be nurse practitioner. Gun owner. He also manages properties.
- Juror No. 26: Asian woman in her 20s. She is in school and has finals and job interviews coming up, but said she was willing to serve if selected.
- Juror No. 40: White man in his 40s. Participated in the police explorers program in high school, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in law enforcement because he was afraid of having to fire a gun.
- Juror No. 48: White woman in her 40s. Mother of 2 school-age children. Former IT project manager. Grew up on a farm outside Minnesota.
- Juror No. 55: White man in his 50s. Field engineer in cybersecurity. Navy veteran. Gun owner. Enjoys partaking in Renaissance "steel weapons fighting."
- Juror No. 57: White woman in her 70s. Mother with children in their 40s. She has served on two prior juries.
- Juror No. 58: White man in his 30s. Father of young child. Lives in Eden Prairie. He has a close friend who is a St. Paul police officer.