Daunte Wright’s girlfriend, who was sitting next to him in the car when former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter shot him, said she still hasn’t overcome the immense trauma of watching her boyfriend die last April.
“I replay that image in my head daily,” 20-year-old Alayna Albrecht-Payton told jurors from the witness stand during Potter’s trial Thursday. She spent most of her hourlong testimony sobbing as she recounted the stop for a minor traffic violation that ended her 20-year-old boyfriend’s life.
Both she and Wright, who’d been dating just three weeks at the time of his death, didn’t have a great relationship with police, according to the testimony. Albrecht-Payton told jurors that when the cops first approached the vehicle, they both feared their presence.
“I was nervous and scared. I don’t really have a good past with police, so every time I encounter them, I just get nervous,” she said.
“How was Daunte behaving? How did he appear to be feeling during that interaction?” state prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked.
“He was really scared. I’d never seen him like that before,” she sobbed. “If you know Daunte, he’s just really happy, he’s positive. You can’t really be like sad, or depressed or angry or mad around him. He was just so nervous and flustered.”
Albrecht-Payton’s heartbreaking testimony took place on Day Two of Potter’s trial for first- and second-degree manslaughter at Hennepin County Courthouse, the same body that convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd.
On April 11 of this year, Potter pulled over Wright for expired registration tags. When police discovered there was a warrant out for Wright’s arrest, they tried to handcuff the young man, but he managed to slip away from them and got back into his car.
As officers scrambled to try and handcuff him as he sat in the driver’s seat, at least one reached for their gun. It’s at that point Potter says she mistakenly pulled out her service weapon, instead of her taser. She shot Wright once in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting by police and medical first responders.
Potter, who is expected to testify at some point during her trial, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
After Wright was shot, according to Albrecht-Payton’s testimony, the car they were sitting in went careening into another vehicle. She also testified that Wright had his hands on the wheel as their car pulled away from where police were trying to detain him.
“I could see his hands were on the wheel,” she remembered. “That’s why I was confused. And then I looked up at a car. We hit the car.”
Albrecht-Payton then said she grabbed whatever she could to cover her boyfriend’s wound before the collision. Albrecht-Payton suffered a broken jaw, and lacerated ear and lips as a result.
“I can’t tell if it was before or after, but I just remember trying to just get him up,” she sobbed, describing the moments after Potter fired her service pistol at Wright’s chest. “I was the only one out of everybody there that was trying to help him. I was trying to push on his chest and call his name. But he wasn’t answering me. He was just gasping big breaths of air.”
She also mentioned that she and Wright had smoked weed in the morning on the day of the shooting but not in the vehicle. And she insisted that the drug had no impact on his ability to drive that afternoon.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Albrecht-Payton testified that she picked up a call from Wright’s mother and told her about what happened, something she says she regrets.
"I was delirious. I was just screaming, 'They just shot him, they just shot him,’” Albrecht-Payton said. “No mom should have to see their dead son on a phone or video call. I know how my mom felt when she couldn’t find me for hours afterward. I just know that I hurt her by doing that.”
When Potter grabbed her gun, she screamed the command “taser!” three times, according to police bodycam footage. She says it was only after she pulled the trigger of the weapon in her hands that she realized the error.
“Holy shit, I just shot him!” Potter screams in police body cam footage immediately after she discharges the weapon. “I grabbed the wrong fucking gun. I shot him.”
Prosecutors, however, are trying to argue that the 26-year police veteran had plenty of time to know she had a gun in her hand. During opening statements Wednesday morning, they played body cam video of the shooting for the jury and noted that Potter held the weapon for 5 and a half seconds before pulling the trigger.
Still, Potter can be seen in body cam footage of other officers who were present sobbing on the side of the road as the car rolls away.
“I’m going to go to prison,” she says through tears. “I just killed a boy.”
Wright’s death, which took place in the final full week of testimony in Chauvin’s murder trial, catalyzed intense protests of its own, prompting the deployment of the Minnesota National Guard in Brooklyn Center.