Kimberly Potter took the stand Friday in her own manslaughter trial, describing the moment she shot Daunte Wright as "chaotic" and apologizing to the courtroom, adding: "I didn’t want to hurt anybody."
Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the April 11 death of the 20-year-old Wright, a Black man. The former Brooklyn Center police officer, who is white, shot Wright during a traffic stop. His death came amid the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's killing, and led to days of tense protests and civil unrest.
Body cam footage from Wright's shooting and comments from local officials suggest Potter inadvertently grabbed her gun rather than her Taser. Potter's defense team has called the weapon mix-up a "mistake" and an "accident," one made as she worried about the safety of a fellow officer.
Wright was pulled over for what police say was an expired license tabs violation, and during the stop officers learned of an outstanding warrant. Police said he got back into his vehicle as an officer tried to arrest him, at which point Potter pulled out a weapon and — moments after yelling "Taser! Taser!" — shot Wright.
"We were trying to keep [Wright] from driving away," Potter said in court Friday. "It just, it just went chaotic."
Potter, at times speaking through tears, said she saw a fellow officer at the time, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, with "a look of fear on his face" as he struggled with Wright over the gear shift, like "nothing [she'd] seen before." She remembered yelling "Taser!" repeatedly.
"And nothing happened," she said. "And then, [Wright] told me I shot him."
The medical examiner said Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Potter ran through much of the lead-up to the incident in detail while being questioned by her defense attorney, talking about her concerns when she saw there was a temporary protection order involving Wright, as well as her worry that there may be a weapon in Wright's vehicle based off a previous gross misdemeanor and bench warrant.
The plan, she said, was for she and the two other officers at the scene to get Wright out of the vehicle and in custody due to the warrant, and then determine if the woman in the vehicle with him was involved in the protection order.
The moments after the shooting were a blur, she said during her testimony, adding she doesn't remember saying the comments captured on body cam video in which she yells: "I shot him. Oh my God. Oh my God ... I'm gonna go to prison."
The prosecution, during cross-examination, emphasized Potter's regular training during her 26 years of service, including Taser-specific recommendations and use-of-force scenarios. When pressing Potter on her actions after she realized she'd shot Wright, the prosecutor argued she "stopped doing [her] job" by not rendering aid or communicating to other officers what happened.
"You didn't run down the street and try to save Daunte Wright's life, did you?" the prosecutor asked.
Potter broke down, saying: "I'm sorry it happened. I'm so sorry. ... I didn't want to hurt anybody."
Following Potter's testimony, the defense rested its case in the trial, which began on Dec. 8. Closing arguments are expected Monday, Dec. 20.