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Police commander outlines Kim Potter’s Taser training at her manslaughter trial

By Julia Jones, Ray Sanchez and Brad Parks, CNN

Kim Potter was fully trained in her department’s Taser and use of force policies when she fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, a suburban Minneapolis police commander testified Tuesday.

Video from the shooting scene on April 11 showed officers had pulled over Wright and tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant when he got back in his vehicle and attempted to flee. Potter pulled out her firearm and shot him — later admitting she meant to use her Taser instead.

“I grabbed the wrong f***ing gun and I shot him,” she said afterward.

Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Garett Flesland, who oversees department training, testified for the prosecution Tuesday that shooting at occupants of a moving car is “rarely effective.” He said firing at a driver could result in the vehicle striking “something or somebody.”

On cross examination, Flesland testified that deadly force can be used to save an officer reaching into the vehicle in an attempt to keep a suspect from getting away.

“Potentially yes, but I wasn’t there,” the commander testified, adding later that the threat to another officer leaning over the driver’s seat could be “severe and significant.”

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for killing Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. Potter has pleaded not guilty and is expected to testify in her own defense.

Flesland testified that Potter was fully trained in department policies on use of force, including Tasers. Her most recent recertification on Taser use was in March 2021, he said.

Under questioning by defense lawyer Earl Gray, Flesland said of Potter: “She’s a good cop. She’s a good person. She’s a friend. I have no concerns going to calls with her.”

The prosecution objected — and the judge sustained the objection — after jurors heard the statements.

Earlier on Tuesday, Potter told the court that she wanted the judge, not the jury, to decide whether she should be subjected to a longer than typical sentence if convicted.

Investigator outlines differences between gun and Taser

Tuesday’s testimony came after a Minnesota state investigator outlined key differences between Potter’s service weapon and a Taser.

Special agent Sam McGinnis of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Monday described the Taser and gun differences in appearance, weight and positioning on Potter’s utility belt. McGinnis is a state investigative agent responsible for reviewing police shootings.

“The Taser is yellow; the firearm is black,” McGinnis said during questioning by the prosecution. “The Taser has a stocky body to it compared to the Glock handgun. The grip of the Taser is shorter and wider than the Glock.”

McGinnis’ analysis of the two weapons revealed marked differences in weight. Potter’s Glock handgun weighed 2.11 pounds, McGinnis said, compared to her Taser that weighed less than a pound. McGinnis said this meant the Glock with the ammo weighed over twice as much as the Taser.

The state investigator also described differences in the ways the two weapons are fired.

“The Glock trigger is curved,” McGinnis told the jury. “The Taser trigger is flat with some serrations cut into it. The Taser has an external, I guess, ‘on’ (and) ‘off’ switch safety. The Glock does not.”

McGinnis also testified that he took photos of Potter after the shooting, which showed she kept her firearm and Taser on opposite sides of her body.

“Her firearm was on her dominant side, which you’d have to use your right hand to draw,” he said, noting her holster had a snap retention system to keep the gun in its holster.

The Taser, in contrast, was holstered on her left side, and required her to push a lever with her left hand to pull it from the holster.

Prosecutors have argued Potter was negligent and acted recklessly in the fatal mixup. Her defense has characterized the killing as an accident but argued she was within her rights to use deadly force to protect another officer.

Wright died from single gunshot wound to the chest, medical examiner says

Potter killed Wright by firing a single bullet to his chest, said Dr. Lorren Jackson, assistant medical examiner at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jackson said Monday the gunshot wound was the sole cause of death for Wright and his manner of death was homicide.

“Was this a survivable injury?” the prosecutor asked Jackson.

No, he responded. Survival times for such an injury would be just seconds to minutes, he told the jury.

The bullet did not leave Wright’s body, he said, but “made a hole in the skin” otherwise known as a partial exit wound. He said he could feel the bullet directly below the skin.

Immediately after the shooting, Wright’s car veered across traffic and crashed into an occupied vehicle.

Wright had superficial, blunt force injuries to his face, including abrasions and lacerations to the lip, Jackson testified Monday. Yet he affirmed that the gunshot wound, which struck Wright’s heart, was the sole cause of death.

“Far and away the gunshot wound to the chest was the most significant injury,” he said.

Two other people were injured in the car crash after Wright was shot. Alayna Albrecht-Payton, who was in the passenger seat of Wright’s car, testified last week she suffered lacerations to her face and lip as well as a broken jaw and concussion.

In addition, Patricia Lundgren, 84, testified last week her 86-year-old husband was injured in the crash, and their daughter testified that her father’s mental state had deteriorated since then. He is now in hospice care, the family said.

In cross-examination of Jackson, the medical examiner indicated that Wright had a high level of THC in his system at the time of death consistent with marijuana use. Jackson said the use of marijuana had no bearing on Wright’s cause of death.

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CNN’s Kim Berryman, Josh Campbell, Eric Levenson and Amir Vera contributed to this report.

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