Ahead of her manslaughter trial, here’s what we know about Kim Potter, the officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright

Ahead of her manslaughter trial, here’s what we know about Kim Potter, the officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

The trial of Kim Potter begins this week as jurors determine whether the former suburban Minneapolis police officer is criminally liable for the death of a 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop.

Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright in April in Brooklyn Center — near Minneapolis — after police pulled Wright over for an expired tag. During the stop, officers learned he had an outstanding warrant and attempted to arrest him.

In the 90-second body camera video of the shooting — shared by the town’s police chief less than 24 hours after the shooting — Potter can be heard yelling “Taser” repeatedly before she shoots Wright. After firing her handgun, she yells, “Holy s***! I just shot him!”

Potter was originally charged with second-degree manslaughter in April and prosecutors added a first-degree manslaughter charge in early September. She faces at least a decade in prison if convicted.

Seven men and seven women were selected for the jury, which includes two alternates.

The jury is comprised of seven White men, four White women, two Asian women, and one Black woman. No Black men were selected for the jury.

Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin Wednesday.

With Potter confirming last week she would like to testify, here’s what we know about her:

Potter is a 26-year police veteran

Potter, 49, was with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She joined the department in 1995, according to the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis.

She served as the police union’s president in 2019, had been on the department’s negotiation team and worked as a field training officer, the Tribune reported.

Two days after the shooting, Potter resigned from the department, according to CNN affiliate KARE-TV.

Potter’s body camera video was released after the shooting

Former Police Chief Tim Gannon, who also submitted his resignation after the shooting, said at the time the portion of the released body-worn camera footage led him to believe the shooting was accidental and that the officer’s actions before the shooting were consistent with the department’s training on Tasers.

Gannon said, “the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” The fatal shooting appeared to be “an accidental discharge,” he said.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension examined Potter’s duty belt and found her handgun is holstered on the right side of her belt, while the Taser is on the left side, according to a news release from Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s Office.

Citing a criminal complaint, the release said the Taser is yellow with a black grip and is set in a straight-draw position, “meaning Potter would have to use her left hand to pull the Taser out of its holster.”

Sean Hendrickson, who teaches the use of force in Washington, told CNN the only way he could wrap his head around Potter confusing a Taser for a gun is if she underwent “cognitive overload.” He defined this overload as the brain going into fight or flight mode and driving the behavior of an individual.

Hendrickson said the situation with Potter and Wright, from the single video released, didn’t seem like it was “unfolding at a rate that would equate to cognitive overload like that.”

Potter attorney also represents officer in George Floyd case

Earl Gray, a St. Paul-based attorney, told CNN he is representing Potter.

Gray is also the attorney for Thomas Lane, one of the four officers charged in George Floyd’s death. He was also a defense attorney for Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer who was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

Potter is also being represented by Paul Engh, who told a prospective juror that Potter will testify.

In a filing last month, Potter’s attorneys said they might assert her gun use was an innocent mistake, an accident, and that the use of the Taser was reasonable. While mistaking a handgun for a Taser is rare, and central to the manslaughter charges against Potter, other aspects of the interaction are likely to come under scrutiny during the trial.

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