Potter was training a new officer on the day she shot Daunte Wright, prosecutor says


Signs and candles are placed in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on November 30.

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Signs and candles are placed in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on November 30. (Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images)

Opening statements in the trial of a suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a routine traffic stop are expected to start soon in the same courtroom where another ex-cop was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Here’s your guide to today’s opening statements:

What the trial is about: Officer Kimberly Potter, 49, faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges in a homicide her lawyers have suggested resulted from her mistaking her gun for a Taser in April. Potter has pleaded not guilty and faces at least a decade in prison if convicted. 

The shooting of the 20-year-old Black man happened in Brooklyn Center, a few miles from the Hennepin County Government Center where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for killing Floyd. 

The shooting’s aftermath: Wright’s killing set off several days of protests in the Minneapolis suburb. It rocked a metropolitan area scarred by other police-involved deaths and reignited national conversations about policing and the use of force against people of color.

Key evidence: Just as video footage played a crucial role in the case against Chauvin, body camera video is expected to be critical in the trial against Potter, who is White. 

Wright was driving on a Sunday afternoon in April when officers pulled him over for an expired tag, police said. The amended criminal complaint said Wright was also stopped because his car “had an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.”

In the footage, Potter can be heard yelling “Taser” repeatedly before she points her handgun and shoots the unarmed Wright.

After firing, Potter is heard yelling: “Holy s***! I just shot him!”

The trial’s attorneys: Potter’s testimony could also be crucial. Defense attorney Paul Engh told a prospective juror that Potter will take the stand. 

Potter’s defense attorneys, Engh and Earl Gray, have previously represented police officers in closely watched cases.   

Engh was an 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. Gray represents another ex-cop facing charges in connection with Floyd’s death and also served on Yanez’s legal team. 

Matthew Frank, an assistant attorney general who was the lead prosecutor against Chauvin, is handling Potter’s case before Hennepin County Judge Regina M. Chu. 

The final members of the jury that will decide Potter’s fate were selected last week.

What we know about the jury: The 14 jurors, including two alternates, are seven White men, four White women, two Asian women and a Black woman.  

Read more about today’s events here.