Kimberly Potter’s former supervisor says it was legal for her to fire gun at Daunte Wright

By: - December 10, 2021 6:14 pm

Brooklyn Center police officer Anthony Luckey’s body camera video shows him trying to comfort former officer Kimberly Potter after she shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021.

Kimberly Potter’s former supervisor, who was halfway inside Daunte Wright’s car when Potter shot Wright, testified Friday that Potter was justified in firing her gun at Wright, even though she has said she mistook her gun for her Taser.

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the fatal April 11 shooting of the unarmed, 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop. The shooting happened during the trial of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin, reigniting protests and riots over police brutality in the small suburban city north of Minneapolis.

Wright was on his way to a car wash with his girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, when he was pulled over by police trainee Anthony Luckey — who was driving a squad SUV with his field training officer, Potter. 

Luckey testified Wednesday that he pulled over Wright after he noticed Wright’s blinker signaling a right turn even though he was in the left turning lane. Luckey said he also noticed an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror — which is technically illegal — and that the car’s registration tab was expired. 

Potter’s supervisor, Lt. Mychal Johnson, testified Friday that he responded to Luckey’s call for backup during the traffic stop, and briefly talked to Luckey and Potter in their squad SUV. They told him there was a warrant for Wright’s arrest in connection with carrying a gun without a permit, and a protection order against him. They decided Luckey would arrest Wright and ensure the passenger wasn’t the person who had a protection order against Wright.

Body camera video played in court showed that as Luckey and Potter were getting out of the SUV to arrest Wright, Potter told Johnson the suspect’s name was Daunte Wright, then added, “The Wright brothers, not the ones that fly but the other ones.” 

To which Johnson replied, “No, I don’t think so.” 

Asked by the prosecutor whether Johnson understood Potter’s comment, he said, “It meant she knew something about them that kinda sparked my interest.”

Johnson said he knew of “another Wright family” in town that didn’t include Daunte Wright. 

As they went to arrest Wright, Johnson stood on the passenger side of the car, and when he saw Wright start to pull away from Luckey, he opened the passenger door, leaned in and put his right hand on the shift lever, his left hand on the ignition and leaned into the passenger.

After Wright got loose from Luckey’s grip and jumped back in the car, Johnson said he restrained him with both hands and heard Potter warn that she was going to “tase” Wright. Then Johnson said he heard a “loud pop” that he thought was a Taser and let go of Wright to avoid getting tased. When Wright went for the shift knob, Johnson backed out of the car.

As the bodycam and dash cam videos of the incident played in the courtroom, Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, turned away to avoid seeing the footage, and softly cried. 

After Wright sped off in the car despite being shot, Potter can be heard on the video saying: “S***! I just shot him! I grabbed the wrong f****** gun. I shot him. Oh my God!” “You did?” Johnson replied on the video.

“I’m going to go to prison,” she said at one point. “I killed a boy.” 

“No you’re not,” Luckey said twice. 

Johnson testified he didn’t realize she had fired her weapon until then.

After Wright’s car sped away and hit another car head on about a block away, Johnson radioed “shots fired” and said he tried to radio additional information but couldn’t because another officer at the crash was transmitting.

During cross-examination, Johnson said Potter exceeded expectations as an officer and Wright never stopped resisting arrest once he started. He also testified that he liked and socialized with Potter after becoming her supervisor in 2019. He was a sergeant while in Brooklyn Center, but left the department in October and is now a major with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office.

When Johnson began explaining the protocol for police shootings and prosecutors played videos of the aftermath, Potter became visibly emotional in the courtroom, shaking slightly, putting her head in her hands, appearing to cry, wipe her eyes and look down. 

The videos showed more of the aftermath than has been released before, with Potter repeatedly saying “What have I done?” Johnson replied that Wright was going to drive off with him in the car, but testified he doesn’t recall saying that.

During cross-examination, Johnson said he could have been dragged, injured or killed had the car taken off with him still halfway inside it. He also said by state law, officers are allowed to use their firearms to stop fleeing suspects to avoid great bodily harm.

But under prosecution questioning, he acknowledged he wasn’t dragged because he stood up as the car took off, and that Wright was never able to drive the car until after he was shot and Johnson had let go of him. He also said there’s a policy on the danger of shooting into occupied vehicles and using a Taser on a driver because it can incapacitate them and cause accidents.

In the video, Potter also asked Johnson to “call Chuck,” which Johnson said was Chuck Valleau, her union representative. Potter is a former police union president.

Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu did not allow the prosecution to delve into the details of Potter’s union membership. 

Johnson testified that he took Potter’s firearm to preserve it as evidence, and gave her his gun, but later emptied it of ammunition after Brooklyn Center Police Officer Colleen Fricke expressed concern that Potter might harm herself. 

The officers were taken to the police station and the investigation was taken over by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Acting Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tony Gruenig and BCA Assistant Special Agent Charles Michael Phill also testified about the process of turning the scene over to state investigators. 

The trial ended early Friday due to a snowstorm, but resumes Monday morning with testimony expected from the medical examiner.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.