See more of the story

The prosecution in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter focused nearly all day Tuesday on introducing Taser training manuals and records while the defense's single cross-examination brought out resounding support for Potter from a supervisor.

With Brooklyn Center Cmdr. Garett Flesland and then Sgt. Michael Peterson as the day's two witnesses, prosecutor Matthew Frank introduced into evidence years of training documents, highlighting pages and passages about proper Taser use and noting Potter's attendance as evidenced by her signature on documents and name on certifications.

Central to the state's first- and second-degree manslaughter case against Potter is that she ignored her training when she mistakenly grabbed her Glock handgun from her right hip instead of her Taser from her left and fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright on April 11. Potter yelled "Taser" multiple times at Wright before firing.

While the evidence may be critical for upcoming use-of-force expert testimony, the process was at times monotonous. At mid-afternoon, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu seemingly noticed flagging attention among the jurors and had them stand up for a few seconds as a stretch break. One juror nodded off, according to a reporter in the courtroom.

At the end of the day, when Frank projected the Taser manual from June 2020 on courtroom screens, Frank prefaced his request to Peterson to affirm the similarities to other manuals by saying, "At the risk of dragging everybody through another PowerPoint."

That was contrasted with defense attorney Earl Gray's aggressive cross-examination of Flesland before lunch. Frank twice referred to the drama of the defense approach. Gray objected, and Chu told Frank to stop using the word "drama." Frank apologized.

Support from former supervisors

Although Flesland came to court as a witness for the prosecution, his support of Potter was strong. He has known Potter for two decades and was her supervisor in recent years.

"She's a good cop. A good person. A friend. I had no concerns going on calls with her," Flesland said under Gray's questioning.

Gray asked if Potter, a 26-year veteran, was ever accused by a citizen of abuse of power or force. Flesland responded, "Not that I'm aware of, sir."

Where Frank's questioning of Flesland was focused on procedure and training, Gray zeroed in on the details of the Wright traffic stop. He laid out what Potter and her partner, officer Anthony Luckey, knew about Wright as they approached his Buick with Sgt. Mychal Johnson.

"No license, no insurance, no real identification," Gray said of Wright. "Would they be in the right to stop that person from fleeing?"

Flesland responded, "Based on the way you laid it out, yes."

Flesland acknowledged, however, that he was responding to Gray's question and had not investigated the stop himself. Gray asked whether Wright's outstanding warrant for possession of an illegal weapon would have been of concern to him at a traffic stop.

"I would be extremely concerned if I was going to arrest someone that had an arrest warrant for some sort of weapons violation," Flesland responded.

Gray pressed Flesland about Wright's resistance to arrest, eluding the handcuffs that Luckey placed on him and getting back behind the wheel while Johnson reached in from the passenger side to try to stop him from driving off.

"You have the right to use deadly force to save … that police officer that's laying over the seat, correct?" Gray asked.

"Potentially, yes," Flesland said, "but I wasn't there."

Gray described Johnson as potentially being injured should the driver try to flee.

"It could likely happen, yes," Flesland said. "I think it would be severe and significant, yes."

The commander's testimony echoed statements on Friday from Johnson, who was Potter's supervisor at the scene and also backed Potter's use of deadly force. And like he did on Friday, Frank pushed back with Flesland, pointing out that officers need to be aware of the potential harm to other officers and bystanders.

In his final question — over Frank's objection — Gray asked Flesland whether he and then-Police Chief Tim Gannon had gone to Potter's home the night of the shooting. Flesland said they had because they heard Potter "had tried to hurt herself."

Chu upheld the state's objection, so no additional detail was provided. Potter was clearly distraught at having killed Wright, according to extensive police video footage already shown in court.

Taser training highlighted

Overwhelmingly, the day's testimony was recitation of procedures. Both Flesland and Peterson testified about the Police Department's numerous policy and training requirements for licensed police personnel.

Department records were shown to the jurors confirming that Potter was aware of all of the policies, that she had regular training about Taser use and regularly wore her Taser at previous incidents as she did on the day she fatally shot Wright — on her left, less dominant side. Potter carried the Taser so that it would be drawn with her left hand in a traditional "reaction" manner with the handle pointing behind her.

During his afternoon on the stand, Peterson demonstrated for the jurors how to "spark-test" a Taser, an operational check that Brooklyn Center officers are required to do and log at the start of every shift. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Sam McGinnis testified Monday that Potter spark-tested her device only six of her last 10 shifts before the shooting.

Peterson stood in the witness box and turned on his Taser, illuminating two colored lasers for targeting assistance. Its flashlight also lit up. He then ran the test, which created a 5-second zapping sound.

The sergeant said he uses a "cross draw" when reaching for his Taser, using his right hand to grab it from his left side. He said he believes that technique makes it less likely he'll draw his firearm instead. Both the cross and reaction draws are taught as acceptable.

In wrapping his testimony for the day, Frank asked Peterson whether he could recall when an officer in his department "went to draw their handgun when they meant to draw their Taser." Peterson said he couldn't.

The defense's cross-examination of Peterson is expected when court resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Potter asks judge to decide on 'aggravating factors'

With the jury out of the room Tuesday, Potter spoke on the record in court. Potter told Chu that if she's convicted she wants the judge, not the jury, to decide whether so-called "aggravating factors" exist to merit sentencing her to a longer prison term.

If convicted, Potter faces a presumptive sentence of four years on the second-degree count and seven years on the first-degree count. If, after conviction, Chu finds "aggravating factors" were present, she could sentence her to more time.

Chu then asked Potter, "Is it your wish to give up your right to a jury trial on whether or not the two [aggravated] factors exist in the event of a guilty verdict?"

"Yes, your honor," Potter said. The former officer is expected to speak much longer before the trial concludes, testifying in her own defense and facing cross-examination.

Prosecutors have not specified how much time they would seek for Potter but said her conduct caused "greater-than-normal danger" to public safety as she fired into a motor vehicle with a passenger on a public street. Prosecutors also say Potter abused her position of authority as a police officer.