Jury Hears About Kim Potter's Repeated Certifications and Training in Use of Taser

The trial against Kim Potter, the Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright in April, continued on Tuesday as the jury heard about the training she received.

Potter maintains that she did not mean to shoot Wright on April 11 and that she thought he had grabbed her Taser. This claim was thoroughly discussed during Tuesday's testimony of Brooklyn Center Police Commander Garett Flesland. He told the jury under oath that Potter was fully trained in how to use a Taser, as well as the proper uses of force in various situations.

She also had signed documents acknowledging her training. These documents and certifications were shown to the jury as the defense argues that Potter was a capable officer. One such certification was signed a month before she shot Wright.

"She's a good cop. She's a good person. She's a friend. I have no concerns going to calls with her," Flesland told Potter's attorney, Earl Gray, while on the stand.

Potter is charged with manslaughter for the shooting death of Wright. She resigned from the police force two days after the incident. Potter had pulled Wright over for having expired license plate tags, as well as an outstanding warrant.

She had threatened him with her Taser before pulling out her handgun and shooting him. Wright's death coincided with the high-profile trial of Derek Chauvin, whose killing of George Floyd sparked international protests for racial equality.

Flesland on Stand
In this screen grab from video, Brooklyn Center police Commander Garett Flesland testifies as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Court TV via AP, Pool

The defense has called the shooting a horrific mistake but has also asserted that Potter would have been within her rights to use deadly force on Wright because he might have dragged another officer, then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson, with his car.

On cross-examination, Gray hammered away at her right to use force. He repeatedly described the situation as one in which Potter was trying to stop a wanted person who was trying to flee from the police and who could have put a fellow officer at risk of being dragged by a car.

"You've got to save that officer that's laying over the seat, correct?" Gray asked.

"Yes," Flesland said.

Flesland also testified that he and the police chief at the time had gone to Potter's house the day of Wright's shooting because "we had been told she had hurt herself." That line of questioning was cut off after prosecutors objected.

Earlier Tuesday, Judge Regina Chu denied two motions filed by prosecutors. One was designed to limit the opinion of witnesses who are not testifying as experts. That came after Johnson, who is now a major in a sheriff's office near Minneapolis, testified last week that Potter's actions were authorized under state law. Johnson was not testifying as an expert on the police use of force.

"I'm not going to preclude any of the officers from testifying that, based upon their training and experience, that deadly force or use of Taser was appropriate under the circumstances," Chu said.

She also denied prosecutors' request to question police officers about union membership. They argued that Potter had roles in the union, including as president, that gave her an elevated level of respect among her coworkers. They wanted to ask officers about it so that jurors could evaluate any potential bias toward Potter.

Chu said she rejected the motion because Potter is no longer connected to the police union in any way and testifying witnesses "couldn't possibly be biased to testify in her favor because of her position."

Chu also ruled Tuesday that if Potter is convicted of one or both of the counts against her, she would preside over a separate trial to determine if there were aggravating factors that would allow Chu to give Potter a sentence above what the state's guidelines suggest.

Prosecutors had been operating under the impression that these issues would be presented during this trial, but without the jury present, Gray said Potter had never agreed to that.

In order for Potter to be sentenced above what the guidelines suggest, prosecutors would have to prove there were aggravating factors; prosecutors allege that Potter's conduct caused a danger to others and that she abused her position of authority.

Prosecutors presented evidence of these aggravating factors when they brought in testimony about injuries to Wright's passenger and an occupant of the car that collided with Wright's right after Potter shot him. Chu said Tuesday that this testimony was not prejudicial and could remain part of this case because evidence about the crash also relates to whether Potter's use of force was reasonable.

Prosecutors on Monday put the differences between her handgun and her Taser on display for jurors, seeking to raise questions about how an experienced officer could confuse the weapons.

Sam McGinnis, a senior special agent with the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, highlighted the differences in the way they were holstered on Potter's duty belt. He also noted the handgun's weight — at about 2 pounds, more than twice that of the Taser — as well as differences in triggers, grips and safety mechanisms.

McGinnis also testified that the Taser has a laser and LED lights that display before it is fired, which he demonstrated for the jury, while the handgun does not, he said.

The case is being heard by a mostly white jury.

State sentencing guidelines call for just over seven years in prison upon conviction of first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree, though prosecutors have said they plan to push for longer sentences.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Taser vs Glock
This image provided by the prosecution shows the difference between a Taser and a Glock as the state delivers their opening statement Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11 death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Prosecutors walked jurors through the differences between Potter's handgun and her Taser on Monday, Dec. 13. Court TV via AP, Pool File