By Carma Hassan, Holly Yan and Amir Vera, CNN
The passenger in Daunte Wright’s car when he was killed was the “only one out of everybody there that was trying to help him,” the young woman testified Thursday in the trial of the then-officer who fired the fatal shot during an April traffic stop in Minnesota.
Alayna Albrecht-Payton testified in court in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center officer who has said she mistook her gun for a Taser and accidentally shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black father. Potter has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Albrecht-Payton, also 20, said she had just recently started a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with Wright when he was killed April 11.
“We were never really official because we didn’t get the chance to,” she said.
Police pulled Wright’s car over and later told him to step out but did not say why, Albrecht-Payton testified.
“He was really scared. Like, I’ve never seen him like that before because if you know Daunte, like, he’s just really happy, he’s positive, and you can’t really be like sad or depressed or angry or mad around him, and, like, he was just so nervous,” she said through sobs.
The next thing she remembered was “the boom, the bang of the gun,” she said.
After that, Albrecht-Payton was the “only one out of everybody there that was trying to help him,” she testified.
She described trying to help stop Wright’s bleeding with a belt and a piece of clothing she found in the car. Albrecht-Payton called his name as he gasped for air, she said.
“I replay that image in my head daily,” she said.
Thursday’s testimony focused on more video footage, Wright’s girlfriend and more officers telling jurors their accounts of April 11 with one saying he provided medical assistance to Wright.
Potter’s attorneys asked for a mistrial, claiming prosecutors spent most of Thursday focusing on the events after the fatal traffic stop shooting, such as the car crash and the medical response. Defense attorneys argued it was prejudicial and had little relevance to the manslaughter allegations in the case.
“We have spent the day rather on an accident that was caused by Daunte Wright’s excessive speed,” defense attorney Paul Engh said. “And then we spent an unending, it seems, amount of time on that aspect of the case without any time addressed to the gravamen of why we’re here. There is a body of evidence that holds that where the state spends an inordinate amount of time presenting prejudicial evidence that has little relevance.”
Minnesota District Court Judge Regina Chu denied the motion for a mistrial.
Wright’s death prompted several days of protests in the Minneapolis suburb and rocked a metropolitan area scarred by other police-involved deaths. It also reignited national conversations about policing and the use of force against people of color.
‘No mom should have to see their son dead on the phone’
During cross-examination Thursday, defense attorney Earl Gray questioned Albrecht-Payton about marijuana. Albrecht-Payton testified she and Wright had smoked marijuana shortly after waking up that day, but it did not have an effect on them, she said.
Albrecht-Payton sobbed on the stand and apologized for showing Wright’s mother her son’s dead body via a FaceTime video call. The elder woman, Katie Bryant, gave emotional testimony a day earlier about the same moments.
“No mom should have to see their son dead on the phone, on a video call out of nowhere,” Albrecht-Payton said Thursday.
Bryant said her son had called her to say he had been pulled over.
Bryant heard an officer tell her son to step out of the car before the call disconnected, she said. Bryant called several more times before making a FaceTime call to her son.
Bryant said a woman answered the phone screaming, saying her son had been shot.
“She faced the phone towards the driver’s seat. My son was laying there, he was unresponsive, and he looked dead,” Bryant testified. “And then I heard somebody say, ‘Hang up the phone,’ again, and it disconnected again.”
Bryant said she called 911 to get the address of her son’s shooting. She was so distraught that a neighbor drove her to the scene, where she stayed for hours, refusing to leave until his body was removed, she said.
Bryant told jurors her son’s body was covered with a white sheet and she recognized him by his tennis shoes.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said.
Bryant still has scars on the inside of her mouth from biting the insides of her cheeks so hard, she said.
“I thought it was a dream, and if I bit the insides of my cheeks then I would wake up,” she said. “But I didn’t wake up.”
During cross-examination, Bryant told the defense she knew her son did not have a driver’s license. She said she did not know there was a warrant for Wright’s arrest and that he used marijuana.
Video shows Brooklyn Center officer drawing gun on Wright’s vehicle after crash
After Potter shot him, Wright put the car in drive and took off and later crashed into a fence, Officer Anthony Luckey, a trainee working with Potter at the time, testified Wednesday.
Thursday, jurors were shown video of Wright’s car crashing as well as video from the aftermath of the shooting.
One video shown was home security footage belonging to Kerry Blanksi, who lives in the area where Wright’s car crashed.
The other video was from Brooklyn Center Police Officer Alan Salvosa’s squad car, which showed him drawing his gun on Wright’s car after it crashed.
Salvosa, a nearly 12-year veteran of the police department, testified Thursday he was responding to the traffic stop that Luckey had initiated when he saw Wright’s vehicle take off and collide with another car.
He said he called in the collision and asked for additional help and an ambulance before ordering everyone in the car out at gunpoint “because it was a fleeing vehicle from a traffic stop and it was a felony crime.”
No medical condition about the occupants of Wright’s car was radioed to him, Salvosa said.
In his squad car video, Salvosa is seen aiming his gun at Wright’s car and ordering Albrecht-Payton and Wright out of the vehicle. It also showed him interacting with arriving officers and paramedics.
Salvosa testified he was not told Wright had been shot by an officer until shortly before he was told he was a witness in the case and needed to isolate. He also said Wright’s mother told him she thought her son was shot by police.
On Thursday, jurors also watched video of Albrecht-Payton getting out of the car after the crash. An officer puts her hands behind her back while telling a second officer, “I don’t know what’s going on.”
The prosecution showed jurors photos of Wright’s damaged car and said Albrecht-Payton suffered injuries from the crash, including a concussion and a fractured jaw.
Video was also shown of officers treating Wright at the scene. Officer Daniel Irish, a police officer with the Champlin Police Department, testified as video from his body-worn camera was shown to jurors.
The video shows Irish grabbing Wright out of the car and officers rolling Wright around on the ground to check for injuries.
Irish said he noted Wright had “a single gunshot wound that appeared to have entered from the left side and exited on the right side.” Irish provided medical aid to Wright, who did not have a pulse, by placing a chest seal on his wound and using an automated external defibrillator on him, he said.
Another officer explains why he stopped Wright
Wednesday, Luckey testified he initially stopped Wright for an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror before things went awry.
Luckey said that while on patrol with Potter, he encountered Wright’s vehicle and saw the white Buick had its right blinker on in the left turning lane. He then immediately ran the registration of the license plate, which had expired registration tabs on the plate.
Luckey also told prosecutors he saw “there was an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror as well,” which is a “common violation of the law.”
Luckey requested another officer come to assist with the traffic stop. As Luckey approached Wright’s car, he explained why he stopped him — which “was for the air freshener” — and asked about his expired tags.
Luckey noticed marijuana residue in the vehicle and smelled marijuana odor, he said. He noted that his interaction with Wright was respectful, and he had no reason to believe he had a weapon.
When he returned to his squad car, Luckey ran Wright’s information through the system, and it showed Wright had an outstanding warrant for a “gross misdemeanor weapons charge” and an “order of protection for a female.”
The jury was shown body camera and patrol car footage during his testimony Wednesday. The footage showed the moment Potter shot Wright as a struggle ensued while attempting to arrest him.
“I was to able to get my handcuffs out and immediately when I placed the left handcuff on his wrist, he jerked his arm back,” Luckey said.
“Right when (Wright) starts to tense up, I basically just told him, I said, ‘Don’t do it, bro,” Luckey said.
At some point, Wright was able to get himself into the driver’s seat, Luckey said, and able to grab the steering wheel and pull himself back in the driver’s seat. That is when Potter ran over to the left side of Luckey to assist in getting Wright out of the car.
Potter can be heard saying, “I’ll tase ya,” before shooting Wright.
“I just shot him. I grabbed the wrong f**king gun,” Potter said. “I shot him. Oh my God.”
“Oh my God,” Potter added while crying. Potter continued to yell, “Oh my God,” numerous times while lying face down on the grass, according to body camera footage.
At the time he heard the bang, Luckey did not know whose gun it was, but he knew it wasn’t Wright’s because he was able to see his hands, he testified.
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