A former supervisor testified Friday in Kim Potter’s manslaughter trial that the then-officer had the right to use deadly force to prevent Daunte Wright from driving away and harming him in the process.
Mychal Johnson, a former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police sergeant, testified that he arrived at the scene as reinforcement after officer Anthony Luckey, a trainee working with Potter at the time, had stopped Wright.
During the traffic stop in April, officers learned he had an outstanding warrant and tried to arrest Wright, at which point, Wright got back into the car.
Johnson testified that when he saw Luckey struggling with Wright, he opened the door on the passenger’s side of Wright’s car to make sure he couldn’t drive off. He testified that he was leaning into the car, holding onto Wright’s arm believing that Luckey or Potter would grab the other arm to handcuff him.
Instead, Johnson testified that he heard Potter, 49, say “Taser, Taser,” and that he then let go of Wright’s arm because he didn’t want to be caught between the probes of the Taser.
As the 20-year-old started to drive off, and as Johnson backed out of the car, Potter fired her gun. Potter claims she mistook her gun for a Taser when she killed Wright.
Jurors watched a composite video from Luckey’s dashcam and Johnson’s bodycam and heard the sound of Wright’s car crashing as it crossed into oncoming traffic.
In cross-examination, Johnson agreed that Potter had a right to use deadly force to prevent death or bodily harm, which he could have suffered if Wright had taken off with Johnson still inside the vehicle.
“So basically, based on these videos and the conduct of Daunte Wright, as far as you’re concerned — and you were there — Kimberly Potter would have had a right to use a firearm, right?” defense attorney Earl Gray asked.
“Yes,” Johnson answered.
Gray asked Johnson what would have happened to him if Wright had taken off with him still in the car.
“Probably dragged,” Johnson answered.
“Dragged and what,” Gray asked.
“Seriously injured, maybe even dead, right?” Gray said.
“And if that were the case, when an officer in your position with Officer Potter trying to stop him from resisting with you and resisting Luckey, would it be fair for that officer to use a firearm to stop him?” Gray asked.
“By state statute, yes,” Johnson replied.
In his opening statement earlier in the week, defense attorney Paul Engh focused on Potter attempting to use a Taser on Wright in order to protect Johnson, because he was inside Wright’s car and would be injured if Wright drove off.
As Wright takes off in his car, Potter says “Sh*t, I just shot him … I grabbed the wrong f**king gun. I shot him.” She then starts wailing, “Oh my God,” over and over, and crying, face down in the grass by the sidewalk.
Asked by Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank if Johnson knew Wright had been shot, Johnson said, “I knew that a shot had been fired, but I didn’t know if he was hit.”
Johnson then radioed for additional units.
At one point after Potter shot Wright, Johnson said he swapped weapons with her as he knew Potter’s gun was now evidence.
After another officer told Johnson that she was concerned Potter may harm herself, Johnson removed the bullets from his firearm, which was then in Potter’s holster.
Footage from his body camera shows him removing the rounds from the gun out of Potter’s view.
Johnson, currently a major with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office, told the jury he admired Potter and that she had been a good coworker. He became Potter’s supervisor in 2019, he said.
Potter has pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, she faces at least a decade in prison.
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