“It’s nothing I’ve seen before,” she said, weeping, recalling the officer reaching into the car to grab the 20-year-old Black father during the April encounter.
“We are struggling. We’re trying to keep him from driving away. It just went chaotic. I remember yelling — ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ — and nothing happened. And then he told me I shot him,” she said, crying and placing her hands over her face.
It was the first time the 26-year veteran cop has recounted publicly in detail what happened that day.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Erin Eldridge, Potter said Wright had not threatened the officers.
“You never saw a gun?” Eldridge asked.
“No,” Potter said.
He never threw a punch right?
He never kicked anyone?
He never said, I’m going to kill you?
He never said, I’m going to shoot you?
He never said, There’s a gun in the car and I’m coming after you?
Eldridge later played video of the moments before the shooting.
“You have the firearm in your right hand, correct?” the prosecutor asked Potter.
“Yes,” the ex-cop said, starting to cry again.
“And you are pointing it directly at Mr. Wright, correct?”
Potter broke down. Defense attorney Earl Gray requested a break. The judge halted the proceedings for lunch.
The state, which rested its case Thursday, presented more than two dozen witnesses over six days, including a policing expert who testified that Potter, who is White, was not justified in using deadly force when she fatally shot Wright.
Potter on Friday described how a seemingly routine stop unraveled when Wright was told he was under arrest for an outstanding weapons warrant. Potter could not recall what she said after pulling the trigger, she testified.
She resigned from the force days later.
“There was so much bad things happening,” Potter testified, referring to the unrest that followed the shooting. “I didn’t want my coworkers … I didn’t want anything bad to happen to the city.”
Her Taser was a new model, Potter testified
Minutes before recounted the shooting, Potter testified she had received a new Taser model days before the shooting.
Potter was issued the new Taser on March 26, she said. She shot Wright on April 11. She told jurors she had never deployed the device while on duty.
“I would take my Taser out on rare occasions, but I don’t believe I ever deployed it,” she said.
Potter, wearing a light yellow sweater and dark pants, opened her testimony by removing her mask and giving her age, 49, and saying she has been married to a retired police officer for 25 years. They met in high school; she was 15.
Potter told jurors they have two sons, one an active duty Marine and the other a college student who planned to be home for the holidays.
Potter’s husband, Jeff Potter, sat in the courtroom as she testified, as did Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright, and mother, Katie Bryant. Potter had other family members in the courtroom.
The ex-officer’s former police chief, a law enforcement expert and other defense witnesses were called to the stand Thursday, with Potter’s former boss testifying he concluded there was “no violation … of policy, procedure, law,” after reviewing body camera and other video following the April 11 shooting.
The judge on Thursday denied a defense request for a judgment of acquittal on grounds the state had presented conflicting evidence on whether the use of a Taser during Potter’s encounter with Wright would have been unreasonable.
Prosecutors say Potter acted recklessly
“I grabbed the wrong f**king gun, and I shot him,” Potter said just after the shooting.
Her defense has characterized the killing as an accident while also arguing she was within her rights to use deadly force to protect another officer who was reaching into Wright’s car when Potter opened fire.
“The use of deadly force was not appropriate, and the evidence suggests that a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” University of South Carolina School of Law associate professor Seth Stoughton testified Wednesday for the state, calling Potter’s actions “excessive and inappropriate.”
A Taser would have been effective in incapacitating Wright, the first defense witness testified Thursday. Still, deadly force is warranted if an officer is partly inside a vehicle as a suspect is attempting to drive away, said Stephen Ijames, a law enforcement expert and former assistant police chief from Missouri.