In tearful testimony Thursday, the girlfriend of Daunte Wright, who witnessed him being fatally shot by a former Minnesota police officer in April, described her futile attempts to save his life.
“[He] wasn’t answering me and he was just gasping,” Alayna Albrecht-Payton, 20, said while testifying for the prosecution on day two of the trial of ex-Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter.
Albrecht-Payton, who had been dating Wright for a few weeks before his death, was a passenger in the car when he was killed.
"I grabbed whatever was in the car. I don’t remember if it was a sweater or a towel or a blanket or — I just grabbed whatever… and put it on his chest like you see in movies and TV shows," she said.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I just put my hands over his chest and tried to hold [the wound] and tried to scream his name. I just tried to have him talk to me. I just kept saying, ‘Daunte, Daunte, just say something please, just talk to me.' And he just couldn’t — I know he tried, I know he wanted to.
"I replay that image in my head daily," Albrecht-Payton said.
Potter, 49, who had been a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police force before resigning days after the shooting, faces felony charges of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Wright's death. She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Wright, a 20 year-old Black man, was pulled over for a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis on April 11. When police ran his information, they discovered that he had an outstanding arrest warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons violation.
As Potter and her partner attempted to put him under arrest, Wright began to flee the scene. Potter warned Wright that she would use her Taser on him, but drew her handgun and shot him once in the chest. In body camera footage, Potter can be heard saying, "I just shot him. ... I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun!"
Wright had started the car when he was shot, and the vehicle moved a short distance down the street before crashing into another car.
Albrecht-Payton said that Wright was frightened and didn’t want to get out of the car when they were first pulled over by the police, but he ultimately followed the officers’ instructions.
“He was really scared; I’d never seen him like that before," she testified. "If you know Daunte, he’s just really happy and positive and you can’t be sad or depressed or angry around him. He was just so nervous and flustered.”
Wright had been on the phone with his mother up until the moment he attempted to flee the scene. Albrecht-Payton said that moments after the shooting, she answered his mother’s video call on Wright's phone.
"I was delirious, I was just screaming, 'they just shot him, they just shot him,'" she said.
Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, testified Wednesday that Albrecht-Payton was screaming when she answered the phone call.
"She said that they shot him and she faced the phone toward the driver's seat," Bryant said. "My son was lying there."
In her testimony, Albrecht-Payton apologized to Bryant for turning the camera on Wright, saying that no mother should have to see her dead son.
“I pointed the camera on him,” Albrecht-Payton said. “And I’m so sorry I did that.”
She said that Wright's foot had been on the car's gas pedal when he was shot, and the car continued moving down the street despite being driverless and crashed into another car.
Albrecht-Payton sustained serious injuries in the accident, including lacerations, a concussion, a broken jaw, and an ear injury that required stitches. Video footage played in court Thursday showed that officers restrained her in handcuffs after she exited the car.
During cross-examination, one of Potter's lawyers, Earl Gray, questioned Albrecht-Payton on the couple's activities before they were pulled over, and she told the court that they had smoked marijuana earlier in the day, but that neither she nor Wright were impaired. She also denied that Wright continued his attempt to flee the scene after he was shot.
While both sides agree that the evidence shows Potter mistakenly fired her handgun instead of her Taser, prosecutors have argued that the former officer failed in her duty, while Potter's lawyers described it as an innocent mistake.
"We trust [police] to know wrong from right, and left from right,” prosecutor Erin Eldridge said during opening statements on Wednesday. “This case is about an officer who knew not to get it dead wrong, but she failed to get it right," she said.
Eldridge pointed out that Potter had "trained for years" to prevent the specific scenario that led to the shooting.
One of Potter's lawyers, Paul Engh, described Wright's death as a tragic and completely unforeseen mistake in a high-pressure situation.
“An error can happen,” he told the jury on Wednesday. “We are in the human business. Police officers are human beings. And that’s what occurred."
Potter could face more than a decade in prison if convicted.