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Officer feared Kim Potter would harm herself after Daunte Wright shooting, court hears

Fellow officers feared that ex-cop Kim Potter would take her own life in the wake of the Daunte Wright shooting and took steps to ensure that she did not have a loaded firearm in her possession.

This is the startling information put before the jury at the start of the third day of Potter’s trial.

It came in testimony from Mychal Johnson, the officer who claims his life was saved by Potter’s actions as, he believed, Wright was trying to drive off with him ‘dangling’ out of the car. 

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Jurors on Friday watched bodycam footage from patrol major Mychal Johnson that showed  officer Kim Potter panicking and screaming immediately after shooting Daunte Wright

Jurors on Friday watched bodycam footage from patrol major Mychal Johnson that showed officer Kim Potter panicking and screaming immediately after shooting Daunte Wright

An emotional Potter was seen screaming and burying her face in her hands moments after the shooting

An emotional Potter was seen screaming and burying her face in her hands moments after the shooting

Johnson is heard in the footage trying to comfort Potter, telling her to breathe and sit down as she cries saying she is going to prison

Johnson is heard in the footage trying to comfort Potter, telling her to breathe and sit down as she cries saying she is going to prison

As the footage played on Potter could be seen standing at a wire fencing by the roadside repeating over and over, 'Oh my God, what have I done?'

As the footage played on Potter could be seen standing at a wire fencing by the roadside repeating over and over, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’

Johnson told jurors that he had taken Potter’s gun from her after the shooting as it might be used in evidence in a future court hearing, but he handed her his own. 

Moments later, he told the court, a fellow officer expressed concern that Potter might harm herself. 

‘Officer Potter was sitting in a squad, and I discreetly asked if I could see my firearm and was able to remove the magazine and one round in the chamber so at that time there were no rounds in the chamber,’ he said. 

Brooklyn Center Patrol Major Mychal Johnson, who assisted officers at the scene on April 11, took the stand on Friday

Brooklyn Center Patrol Major Mychal Johnson, who assisted officers at the scene on April 11, took the stand on Friday

Despite Johnson’s claim being key to Potter’s defense he had been called as a witness for the prosecution.

Earlier Minnesota’s Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank took Johnson through the traffic stop and shooting as methodically as possible, apparently at pains not to elicit any opinion from the officer who knew Potter both professionally and socially.

Johnson, now a patrol major with Goodhue County Sheriff’s Department was a sergeant with Brooklyn Center Police Department and Potter’s supervisor at the time.

He was on the scene because he had responded to rookie Officer Anthony Luckey’s request for back-up at the fateful traffic stop that day.

But while Frank kept emotion out of Johnson’s testimony there was no way to remove it from previously unseen footage from Johnson’s bodycam that was played in court.

On Friday, jurors saw the third officer’s perspective for the first time as he reached into Wright’s car and tried to prevent the 20-year-old from driving away.

They saw him reach for the gear shift and attempt to turn Wright’s keys in the ignition. 

Then they saw Johnson grab Wright’s arm as he struggled and appeared to try to get to the gear shift. 

Johnson told the court that he ‘heard a loud pop’ but didn’t immediately register that a shot had been fired.

As the footage played on the jury once again saw a hysterical Potter yelling, ‘I grabbed the wrong f***ing gun. I shot him. Oh my god.’

Now they heard Johnson comfort her, telling her to breathe and sit down. ‘I’m going to prison,’ she said. 

Potter, a 26-year veteran in the force, claims she accidentally shot Daunte Wright when she reached for her gun instead of her taser during a traffic stop over his expired plates in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

Daunte Wright, 20, was pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and expired license plate tags

Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran in the force, claims she accidentally shot Daunte Wright (right) when she reached for her gun instead of her taser during a traffic stop over his expired plates in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota 

Johnson told jurors that he had taken Potter's gun from her after the shooting but handed her his own

Johnson told jurors that he had taken Potter’s gun from her after the shooting but handed her his own

He said Potter was sitting in the squad car when he 'discretely' asked if he could see his firearm and unloaded it

He said Potter was sitting in the squad car when he ‘discretely’ asked if he could see his firearm and unloaded it 

Johnson could be heard replying, ‘No you’re not. Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car.’

After sending the jury out for a brief morning break Judge Regina Chu addressed the attorneys and doubled down on a warning that she had given yesterday regarding cumulative testimony – a factor upon which the defense made a failed bid to ask for a mistrial.

This morning Judge Chu warned the state: ‘I’m not going to allow lengthy testimony [saying what happened] and then show the video. So be mindful of that.’ 

During cross examination, defense attorney Earl Gray made the most of the state witness who is in fact central to the defense.

After establishing that Potter had an exemplary record with no history of excessive force he took Johnson through the scene once more, this time focusing on Wright’s actions.

The way Gray painted it, Wright’s own conduct led to a situation in which, he got the witness to agree, Potter would have been within her rights to use deadly force.

Wright didn’t give up and didn’t stop struggling. He never surrendered, Gray said.

He asked: ‘You said, “Kim the guy was trying to take off with me in the car.” And if he had taken off with you in the car half-way, what would have happened to you?’

Johnson replied: ‘Probably dragged and injured.’ 

‘Maybe even dead correct?’ Gray prompted. Johnson agreed.

Gray continued, ‘[In those circumstances] would it be fair for the officer to use a firearm to stop him?’

Johnson replied: ‘By state statute, yes.’

Gray hammered the point home: ‘To avoid death or grave bodily harm you have a right to use deadly force. Basically based on these videos and the conduct of Daunte Wright as far as you’re concerned Kimberly Potter would have had a right to use a firearm right.’

Johnson replied: ‘Yes.’

Former Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter, 49, is seen with her legal team during day three of her trial

Former Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter, 49, is seen with her legal team during day three of her trial

The jury on Friday also saw Johnson's perspective for the first time when he reached into Wright's car and tried to prevent the 20-year-old from driving away

The jury on Friday also saw Johnson’s perspective for the first time when he reached into Wright’s car and tried to prevent the 20-year-old from driving away 

A struggle ensued when Potter and her trainee officer tried to arrest Wright (pictured) after learning during a traffic stop that he had an outstanding warrant against him

A struggle ensued when Potter and her trainee officer tried to arrest Wright (pictured) after learning during a traffic stop that he had an outstanding warrant against him

But in his rebuttal Frank did his best to negate Gray’s attempts to create the impression that Johnson had ever been in danger from anyone other than Potter.

He asked Johnson where his feet were throughout the entire encounter with Wright, the officer replied, ‘on the curb or on the street.’

Asked how far from Wright he was when Potter shot, Johnson estimated, ‘about six inches to a foot.’

Before the end of the day the jury heard from Brooklyn Center Police Department Acting Chief Tony Greunig and Mike Phill, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Greunig was tasked with securing the scenes of the shooting and the crash and maintaining their integrity until the investigation was handed over to Phill and the BCA as is protocol in officer involved shootings.

The afternoon session was cut short as Judge Chu sent jurors home early due to a storm warning and worsening weather causing concern for road safety.

Dismissing the jury for the weekend the judge reminded them that they must not let outsiders influence them, including family and friends, or discuss the case with anyone including other jury members.

They were also told not to post any comments on any social media sites, visit chatrooms, read or listen to news reports or conduct any of their own investigations.

Court will resume at 9am, Monday.

Johnson testified that he opened the passenger-side door after Wright started to pull away from another officer, leaned into the car, pushed the shift knob forward to make sure it was in park and reached for the keys to try to turn off the vehicle

Johnson testified that he opened the passenger-side door after Wright started to pull away from another officer, leaned into the car, pushed the shift knob forward to make sure it was in park and reached for the keys to try to turn off the vehicle

Earlier in the trial, jurors were shown bodycam and dash cam footage of the dramatic moment Potter shot Wright dead after 'accidentally' pulling out her gun instead of her taser

Earlier in the trial, jurors were shown bodycam and dash cam footage of the dramatic moment Potter shot Wright dead after ‘accidentally’ pulling out her gun instead of her taser 

Alayna Albrecht-Payton recalled the shot being fired and the crash that followed as Wright struck another vehicle after driving off

Alayna Albrecht-Payton recalled the shot being fired and the crash that followed as Wright struck another vehicle after driving off

Prosecutors say Potter was a veteran Brooklyn Center officer who violated her training. 

Defense attorneys say Potter made a mistake but would have been justified in shooting Wright if she’d consciously chosen to because other officers, including Johnson, might have been dragged if Wright drove away.

Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, who was pulled over in Brooklyn Center for having expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his mirror. 

Potter, who quit the force two days after his death, has said she meant to use her Taser on Wright. Potter is white. Wright, 20, was Black. 

The shooting set off days of protests and clashes with law enforcement in Brooklyn Center, just as former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was on trial nearby in George Floyd’s death.

On Thursday, prosecutors played extensive video of the aftermath, showing jurors images of officers pulling him from his car and attempting lifesaving measures.

Wright’s passenger and girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, testified Thursday that Wright ‘was just gasping’ after he was shot and described her panic.

‘I grabbed, like, whatever was in the car. I don’t remember if it was a sweater or a towel or a blanket or something … and put it on his chest like, like you know, you see in movies and TV shows,’ said Albrecht-Payton, who said she had begun a relationship with Wright just a few weeks before he died. 

‘I didn’t know what to do.’

Albrecht-Payton also apologized to Katie Bryant, Wright’s mother, who had called his phone trying to re-establish contact after a call with him was cut off right before he was shot. 

Bryant testified tearfully a day earlier that she first saw her son’s apparently lifeless body via that video call. 

‘I pointed the camera on him,’ Albrecht-Payton said. ‘And I’m so sorry I did that.’

A stream of police officers and emergency medical workers followed her to the stand for much of the day, eventually prompting Potter attorney Paul Engh to seek a mistrial on the grounds that the state was presenting evidence irrelevant to her guilt or innocence, and instead was showing evidence consisting of ‘sordid pictures and prejudicial impact.’


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