The young woman who was in Daunte Wright's car when he was fatally shot by former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter testified Thursday about his last moments, breaking down into tears as she recalled using her belt and cloth to stanch the flow of blood from his chest.
Alayna Albrecht-Payton was the first witness on the second day of testimony in Potter's trial, crying as she told the court, "I replay that image in my head daily."
Prosecutors also called witnesses who revealed that police waited several minutes to extract Wright from his car and begin life-saving measures. Prosecutors attempted to show that several officers who arrived on the scene as backup encountered uncertainty because they weren't informed until much later that Wright had been shot by an officer.
The day was punctuated by several battles between prosecutors and Potter's defense attorneys, who objected to evidence and testimony in the state's case, citing what they saw as their prejudicial and repetitive nature. It culminated with one of Potter's attorneys, Paul Engh, unsuccessfully asking Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu to declare a mistrial at the end of the day after jurors had left the courtroom.
"The issue in our case here is the thought process of Kimberly Potter at the moment that she yelled, 'Taser! Taser! Taser!' and pulled the trigger of her gun," Engh said. "We have spent the day, rather, on an accident that was caused by Daunte Wright's excessive speeding … I didn't see any evidence directed towards the proof of guilt here today, but rather, evidence of sordid pictures and prejudicial impacts that had little relevance."
Wright, 20, had been pulled over on April 11 for expired tabs and an air freshener on his rear-view mirror when police discovered that he had an arrest warrant in a gross misdemeanor weapons case. Potter shot Wright once after he broke free of an officer attempting to arrest him and jumped back into his car. Wright's car sped down the street after the shooting, crashing head-on into a moving vehicle with two occupants in their 80s.
Potter's defense has argued that she meant to deploy her Taser. Prosecutors have argued that she acted recklessly, and they tried Thursday to show that her actions touched many more lives beyond Wright's.
"Her conduct presented danger to more than just the individuals in the immediate area," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said in rebutting Engh. "It presented a greater danger to a greater number of people."
Frank argued that some of the testimony Engh objected to was being presented so that in the event of a conviction, prosecutors can use the evidence as "aggravating factors" to request a prison term for Potter that's longer than recommended by state sentencing guidelines.
Chu said they were "getting ahead of ourselves" and denied Engh's request. Potter, 49, is on trial in Hennepin County District Court on one count each of first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Albrecht-Payton, 20, told jurors she and Wright had dated for about three weeks.
"His hands weren't on the wheel, and that's why I was confused, and I looked up and saw a car," she said of Wright's car accelerating into another vehicle after the attempted police stop.
Albrecht-Payton said she tried to save Wright's life even though she had been injured in the crash. A photo presented at trial showed a large, circular crack in the windshield in front of where she was sitting in the front passenger seat.
"I took my belt off, and I grabbed, like, whatever was in the car — I don't remember; it was a sweater or a towel or a blanket or something — I just grabbed whatever it was, and I put it on his chest like I, like, you know, you see in movies and TV shows," a tearful Albrecht-Payton said.
"And I didn't know what to do, so I just, I just put my hands over his chest and I just tried to hold it in, just tried to scream his name, and I just tried to have him talk to me and just kept saying, 'Daunte, like, Daunte, like, just say something, please, like, just talk to me' … I know he tried. I know he wanted to."
Prosecutors played police body camera footage showing Albrecht-Payton walking from the vehicle in a daze with blood dripping from her face. Police quickly handcuffed her. She testified that she suffered a lacerated lip and ear, a concussion and a broken jaw.
"I've had to get used to a whole new jaw," Albrecht-Payton said as she gave jurors a brief demonstration. "When I open my mouth or whatever, it goes to a certain way. When I sleep — just weird — like, it's hard to explain; my teeth will just not be aligned, and it will feel like I'm biting just hard a lot."
Emotions ran high when Albrecht-Payton apologized to Wright's mother, Katie Bryant, for showing her video of Wright slumped over in the crashed car after Bryant placed a video call to them to check on their welfare in the traffic stop. Bryant was in the courtroom and cried throughout her testimony.
"I was delirious. I was just screaming, like, 'They shot him, they shot him,' and then I pointed the camera on him, and I'm so sorry I did that," said Albrecht-Payton, who could barely speak at points. "No mom should have to see see her son dead on her phone on a video call … I just know that I hurt her by doing that, and I apologize, Katie."
Under cross-examination by Potter's other attorney, Earl Gray, Albrecht-Payton testified that she and Wright had smoked marijuana that morning. Potter's defense previously told jurors that Wright's negligence, including marijuana use, contributed to the events that day.
Denise Lundgren Wells later testified that Wright's car crashed into her parents' car and that her 86-year-old father, who had pre-existing heath issues, has become noticeably more incoherent and forgetful since the crash. Her parents did not sustain physical injuries in the collision.
Brooklyn Center police officer Alan Salvosa and Champlin police officer Dan Irish testified that they arrived at the scene as back-up and were not informed for some time that Potter had shot Wright.
Salvosa's body camera video was played in court, showing him pointing his gun at Wright's crashed car, a Buick, and demanding that the occupants exit. Salvosa testified that he received no information about how Wright was injured and the number of occupants inside, information that was available to Potter and two other Brooklyn Center officers at the initial traffic stop. Salvosa told jurors he believed there could have been three occupants.
"Do you remember [Potter] reporting anything to you over the radio about the condition of anyone in that Buick?" Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Joshua Larson asked.
"No, sir," Salvosa said.
"Were you surprised that you didn't receive any information from anyone at the traffic stop?" Larson asked.
"I was confused," Salvosa said.
Salvosa, Irish and Brooklyn Center police officer Jeffrey Sommers testified that officers at the scene waited for several minutes to approach Wright's car and extract him because they were unclear about the threat inside.
Irish and two employees of North Memorial Health Hospital testified that they took Wright's pulse at the scene and did not find one.
Testimony resumes at 10 a.m. Friday.