Daunte Wright trial: Prosecutor says cop 'betrayed her badge', defence blames the slain victim

WION Web Team
Minneapolis, United States Published: Dec 09, 2021, 08:52 AM(IST)

Potter's attorney, Paul Engh, called the shooting an accident and a mistake. In Engh's opinion, Wright created a volatile situation when he attempted to flee, adding that Potter had a duty to stop Wright. Photograph:( AFP )

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In her account, the former officer says that she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, an action that led to the death of the black man

The trial of a former US police officer who "accidentally" killed an African-American man during a routine traffic stop, took place on Wednesday.

Prosecutors charged that the white former police officer acted inconsistently with years of training by mistakenly using her pistol instead of her Taser, while the defence sought to blame the slain man for resisting arrest in a routine traffic stop.

Kim Potter, 49, is facing manslaughter charges for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, this April.

Also read | Brooklyn protests after Daunte Wright's brutal killing

In her plea, Potter pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter, which carry maximum sentences of 15 years and 10 years, respectively. 

The former officer says that she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, an action that led to the death of the black man. 

Wright, 20 was stopped by Potter and two of her colleagues because his car's registration was out of date. 

They then came to know that Wright was already wanted for carrying a gun without a permit and had an arrest warrant out for him. Wright, who was unarmed, tried to flee as officers attempted to hold him on the outstanding warrant.

To stop him, Potter said she intended to draw her Taser, which is designed to stop a person with a strong electric shock. She shouted "Taser" as she fired, body camera footage shows.

Wright drove off, but soon came to a stop. Emergency workers ruled him dead at the scene from a gunshot wound.

Following the shooting, Potter resigned from the police department. She maintains that she had accidentally taken her gun out of its holster, instead of drawing her Taser which was on the other side.

Also read | Calls for US police reform at fresh protest over Daunte Wright killing

Potter's attorney, Paul Engh, called the shooting an accident and a mistake. In Engh's opinion, Wright created a volatile situation when he attempted to flee, adding that Potter had a duty to stop Wright.

"She made a mistake. This was an accident. She's a human being," said her attorney, Paul Engh. 

"A surgeon perhaps after 1,000 surgeries might make a mistake, which can happen or diagnosis may be missed in the time of stress," Engh said.

"That's simply not the case," local prosecutor Erin Eldridge countered, rejecting Potter's defence.

"This case is about... the reckless handling of a firearm, and it's about the disregard of known risks," said Eldridge.  

"It's about an officer who knew she could kill someone if she got it wrong, but she failed to make sure she got it right."

Watch | Daunte Wright Shooting: Protests continue in Minneapolis for second night

The incident occurred just over 10 months after police killed another Black man in Minneapolis, George Floyd.

In response to Floyd's death, protests and riots broke out across the nation over racial abuse in law enforcement.

The death of Wright reignited tensions and led to new demonstrations in the northern city. These demonstrations calmed after Potter's arrest and after Floyd's convicted killer, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

(With inputs from agencies)

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