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US ex-cop on trial for fatal shooting of Black man she says was accident

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A makeshift memorial to Daunte Wright sprang up in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota as the trial of the former police officer who fatally shot him began./AFP
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Dec 09, 2021 - 09:13 AM

MINNEAPOLIS — A US former police officer went on trial Wednesday for the death of an African-American man, which she claimed was an accident, saying she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser during a routine traffic stop.

Kim Potter, 49, is charged with first degree manslaughter over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in April this year.

The shooting took place just over 10 months after the police killed another Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.

Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide uproar over law enforcement abuse of African-Americans, igniting protests and riots in multiple cities.

Wright’s death revived the tensions and sparked new demonstrations in the northern city, which calmed down after Potter’s arrest and after Floyd’s convicted killer, police officer Derek Chauvin, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The facts of Wright’s death are not in dispute and are recorded in police body camera videos.

Potter and two of her colleagues stopped Wright, who was 20 and had a young son, on the road because his car’s registration was out of date.

They learned that there was already a warrant out for Wright’s arrest on a charge of carrying a gun without a permit.

Wright, who was unarmed, tried to flee.

To stop him, Potter said she intended to draw her Taser, which is designed to stop a person with a strong electric shock. She shouted “Taser” as she fired, body camera footage shows.

Wright drove off but soon came to a stop. Emergency workers ruled him dead at the scene from a gunshot wound.

Potter, who resigned from the police department after the incident, said she had accidentally drawn her pistol, which was holstered on one side, rather than her Taser, which was holstered on the other.

“She made a mistake. This was an accident. She’s a human being,” said her attorney, Paul Engh.

“A surgeon perhaps after 1,000 surgeries might make a mistake, which can happen or diagnosis may be missed in the time of stress,” Engh said.

“That’s simply not the case,” local prosecutor Erin Eldridge countered, rejecting Potter’s defense.

“This case is about… the reckless handling of a firearm, and it’s about the disregard of known risks,” said Eldridge.

“It’s about an officer who knew she could kill someone if she got it wrong, but she failed to make sure she got it right.”

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