The father of Daunte Wright choked up on the witness standWednesday as he told jurors about his son in the manslaughter trial of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Wright while yelling “Taser” in a Minneapolis suburb earlier this year.
Arbuey Wright, 42, testified as a “spark of life” witness and the final for the state. He described his son as a jokester and loving fatherwho enjoyed playing basketball, eating chicken at family cookouts and watching over his two younger sisters, Diamond and Destinee.
“We had a close relationship. He was me and my wife’s first child,” Wright said, his voice cracking. He added: “I miss him a lot. Every day.”
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge showed jurors a photo of Arbuey Wright with his arm around Daunte’s shoulder and a photo of Daunte holding his infant son, Daunte Jr.
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“I was so happy for him because he was so happy about Junior. This was my chance to be a grandfather,” Arbuey Wright said. “He loved his son.”
Wright said he andhis wife, Katie Bryant, have three children together who all lived in the same home before Daunte Wright’s death. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Daunte Wright worked under his father at a shoe store, Arbuey Wright said, smiling on the stand as he recounted stories about managing his son.
As Wright testified, Bryant sniffled and wiped away tears in the courtroom.
Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s death during a traffic-stop-turned arrest in April.
Prosecutors say Potter was “reckless” and consciously took the risk of causing harm to Wright and others. Defense attorneys say Potter mistook her firearm for a Taser but would have been justified in using a firearm anyway because she was attempting to prevent the injury of another officer.
Arbuey Wright’s testimony comes after six days of evidence in the state’s case. The state was set to rest Thursday morning,and Potter was expected to take the stand during the defense’s presentation of evidence.
‘WORST DAY OF MY LIFE’:Daunte Wright’s mom testifies at manslaughter trial of ex-Minnesota officer Kim Potter
Jurors heard emotional testimony from Bryant, Wright’s mother, and from his girlfriend. Officers on-scene during the shooting and officers who arrived after at the scene of the crash that ensuedalso testified. Prosecutors played dozens of body camera and dashcam videos of the incident, prompting tears from Wright’s family in the courtroom.
Prosecutors capped their case this week with technical testimony on Brooklyn Center Police Department policy, Taser training guidelines and the differences between Tasers and firearms. Witnesses testified Potter completed annual Taser training and had recently completed a training weeks before the incident.
Expert witness Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina law professor who testified for the state in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, told jurors it would not have been appropriate for a reasonable officer in Potter’s position to use a Taser or a firearm, calling her use of force “excessive.”
Prosecutors attempted to rebut the defense’s claim that Potter fired a weapon because she was trying to save the life of another officer, Mychal Johnson, who had leaned inside Wright’s car during the struggle to arrest him.
Johnson testified he would have been “probably dragged” and “injured” if Wright’s car had taken off with him inside of it. Asked by defense attorney Earl Gray if it would have been “fair” for Potter to use a firearm in that situation to prevent his death, Johnson said: “By state statute, yes.”
Wright died by a gunshot wound to the chest that was not survivable, the Hennepin County assistant medical examiner testified.
“Injuries like this we refer to survival times in terms of seconds to minutes,” Dr. Lorren Jackson said. He added: “One can lose consciousness within 10 to 15 seconds.”
On cross-examination, Gray asked Jackson if Wright could have driven for “up to a minute” after he was shot. Jackson said that would be “possible.”
Wright’s girlfriend testified Wright’s hands were “never on the wheel” and his foot was on the gas after the shooting. She initially testified the car Wright was driving was never turned off during the traffic stop, but she later said she was unsure.
The manslaughter charges do not require prosecutors to prove that Potter intended to kill Wright. The first-degree charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine, and the second-degree charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine. The judge will rule on the aggravating factors.
Twelve jurors and two alternates are hearing evidence in the case, which is being livestreamed.