Closing arguments for ex-officer Kim Potter in Daunte Wright’s death


A prosecutor told jurors on Monday that the suburban Minneapolis police officer who says she meant to use her Taser instead of her gun when she shot and killed Black motorist Daunte Wright made a “blunder of epic proportions” and did not have “a license to kill.”

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge said during closing arguments in Kim Potter’s manslaughter trial that Wright’s death was “entirely preventable. Totally avoidable.”

“She drew a deadly weapon,” Eldridge told the court. “She aimed it. She pointed it at Daunte Wright’s chest, and she fired.”

As prosecutors have done throughout the three-week trial, Eldridge stressed that the former Brooklyn Center police officer was a “highly trained” and “highly experienced” 26-year veteran and said she acted recklessly when she killed Wright.

“She made a series of bad choices that led to her shooting and killing Daunte Wright,” Eldridge said. “This was no little oopsie. This was not putting the wrong date on a check. … This was a colossal screwup. A blunder of epic proportions.”

Although there is a risk every time an officer makes traffic stop, that didn’t justify Potter using her gun on Wright after he pulled away from her and other officers during an April 11 traffic stop as they were trying to arrest him on an outstanding weapons possession warrant, Eldridge said.

“Carrying a badge and a gun is not a license to kill,” she said.

Eldridge also downplayed testimony from some other officers who either described Potter as a good person or said they saw nothing wrong in her actions: “The defendant has found herself in trouble and her police family has her back.”

The mostly white jury will begin deliberating after Potter’s lawyers present their closing arguments.

Judge Regina Chu told jurors that she will not make them deliberate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They’ll return after the holiday if they haven’t reached a verdict by then.

Playing Potter’s body camera video frame by frame, Eldridge sought to raise doubts about Potter’s testimony that she fired after seeing a look of fear on the face of another officer who was leaning into the car’s passenger-side door.

The defense rested Friday after Potter told jurors that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody,” saying during her sometimes tearful testimony that she shouted a warning about using her Taser on Wright after she saw fear in that other officer’s face.

Potter, 49, testified that she was “sorry it happened.” She said she didn’t remember what she said or everything that happened after the shooting, saying much of her memory of those moments “is missing.”

Potter is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 killing of Wright, who was pulled over in Brooklyn Center for having expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

Potter, who was training another officer at the time, said she probably wouldn’t have pulled over the 20-year-old Wright’s car if she had been on her own that day. After that initial encounter, the traffic stop “just went chaotic,” she testified.

“I remember yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser,’ and nothing happened, and then he told me I shot him,” Potter, who is white, said through tears. Her body camera recorded Wright saying, “Ah, he shot me,” after the shooting.

Potter’s attorneys argued that she made a mistake but also would have been justified in using deadly force if she had meant to because they say one of the other officers was at risk of being dragged by Wright’s car.

Wright’s death set off angry demonstrations for several days in Brooklyn Center. It happened as another white officer, Derek Chauvin, was standing trial in nearby Minneapolis for the killing of George Floyd.

State sentencing guidelines call for just over seven years in prison upon conviction of first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree, though prosecutors have said they plan to push for longer sentences.

Eldridge went into detail on the elements to prove first-degree manslaughter, including the requirement that a slaying be a “voluntary act.” She said various actions taken by Potter – unsnapping her holster, shifting a piece of paper from her right hand to her left, putting her hand on her gun as she approached Wright’s car – were all voluntary acts and not a reflex.