Former Brooklyn Center police chief says Potter was justified in using Taser or gun to stop Wright

Potter, psychologist to testify Friday

By: - December 16, 2021 5:38 pm

Former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon testifies Thursday that his former officer and friend Kimberly Potter was justified in using her Taser or firearm to stop Daunte Wright from fleeing. YouTube screenshot

Kimberly Potter’s former police chief — who resigned rather than face removal for not immediately firing Potter after she killed Daunte Wright during an April 11 traffic stop — testified Thursday that she was justified in using either a Taser or her firearm when Wright tried to flee police as they tried to arrest him on a warrant.

Timothy Gannon, the former Brooklyn Center Police Chief at the time of the killing, testified that after watching video from Potter’s body-worn camera, he saw no violation of policy, procedure or law.

Potter’s defense attorneys have said she was within her rights to use deadly force to stop Wright because her sergeant, Mychal Johnson, was halfway inside Wright’s car, restraining him. If Wright had taken off, Johnson could have been hurt or killed, they argue. Gannon said he was dragged by a car once and it was “sheer terror.” He also said a Taser could have been used in the situation.

Gannon also acknowledged he worked with and socialized with Potter and feels bad for her. He was recently hired by a statewide law enforcement union.

After defense attorney Earl Gray asked if he would lie to help a friend, Gannon said there’s a reason he’s no longer the police chief: “No one gets me to do something or say something I don’t believe in.

“I wouldn’t lie for anyone.” 

Potter resigned two days after killing Wright, and was arrested the next day. She is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter.

Potter and a psychologist who will testify on “slip and capture errors” are expected to take the stand on Friday as the last two defense witnesses. The prosecution rested its case Thursday and the defense called several character witnesses who said Potter was a good, law-abiding, peaceful cop, and an expert witness who said Potter was justified in using deadly force.

Potter’s former Brooklyn Center colleague, Officer Colleen Fricke, testified about escorting Potter to the police station after the shooting, and seeing Potter curled up, crying in a meeting room.

Fricke, who described Potter as a mentor and friend after working the same shift for several years, said Potter had never fired her gun or Taser before April 11.

“I think she was a remarkable police officer because she was a remarkable person,” she said.

Thomas L. Hall, a 23-year-old Black Champlin man who spent many weekends with Potter’s family, testified that Potter was like a “second mother” to him. She was always law-abiding and “extremely peaceful,” he said.

Frank Roth, her former Brooklyn Center supervisor for 10 years, testified that Potter had a “sterling” reputation and was skilled at crisis negotiation — peacefully ending tragic situations.

The prosecutor noted Roth was at Potter’s side when she gave a recent interview to the Star Tribune.

The defense expert was Stephen Ijames, former assistant chief in Springfield, Missouri, and a 43-year police veteran who has trained thousands of people and developed a Taser training program for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Ijames — who drove more than eight hours to testify despite having open heart surgery last week — testified that Potter was justified in using her Taser or Glock to stop Wright.

He said he was not being paid to testify, because he decided in the mid-1990s never to charge a fee for criminal cases where someone’s freedom is at stake. He said of the four criminal cases he’s currently reviewing, he is not supporting the officer’s use of force in three of them.

Under prodding by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, Ijames remembered a fifth local case in which he is “more supportive of the officer.” The attorney for J. Alexander Kueng, one of the three former Minneapolis cops who helped restrain George Floyd, has listed Ijames as an expert witness in court documents.

After the jury left the courtroom Thursday, defense attorney Paul Engh made a record of his objection to Judge Regina Chu’s ruling that the defense could not present evidence to rebut prosecution expert Seth Stoughton’s testimony Wednesday that Wright could have been arrested later. Engh wanted to introduce as evidence arrest warrants for Wright for failing to appear five times.

He noted that a month before he was killed, Wright was charged with carrying a pistol without a permit after a report that he was waving around a handgun near an intersection and then got in the backseat of a car. When police arrived, Wright fled, evading police, Engh said, and a gun was found on the floor where he’d been sitting. Another occupant said it was Wright’s gun.

The defense attorneys also wanted to introduce evidence of other crimes of violence to rebut the idea that police could have peacefully arrested Wright, including a pending 2019 robbery case and two civil complaints that he robbed a person he’d shot in the leg, and shot another person in the head, permanently disabling them.

Engh said while the defense appreciates that a life was lost, “the image of him as being somehow law-abiding and always terrific is undercut by some of his criminal behavior.”

Chu stood by her original ruling, saying she allowed evidence of Wright’s prior “bad acts” that Potter was aware of, “but she was not aware of all these other matters” when she approached his vehicle on April 11.

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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.

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