July 04, 2001
Suspect wasn't going to escape, says officer who shot him
By KATHY CARLSON
Courtesy of the Tennessean
When the moment came on Sunday afternoon, Sgt. Robert Butler knew it and seized it.
Earlier that day, he had taken notes on homicide suspect David Eugene Minis, listened on the police radio as other officers chased him around Nashville and joined the chase when Minis careened through Butler's patrol territory in south Nashville.
When Minis crashed and ditched the stolen truck at a Donelson-area motel and held a gun on two hostages, Butler joined other officers to build the imaginary box — a police perimeter — they'd use to trap him.
Butler hit the ground when Minis, from about 70 feet away, fired at him.
''I could have sworn I saw the bullet passing by,'' Butler said yesterday, the trace of a smile on his face.
He told reporters that he knew he and the other officers had set up a good perimeter, and they were determined not to let Minis get out in the open.
Sgt. Luke Merithew was on the other side of the Family Inns of America motel, and the two officers had worked together on other cases.
Merithew and Officer Mike Evans had experienced their own moment of truth that morning. They were close to calling it quits after spending 40 minutes checking out a tip that Minis was headed for the Greyhound station downtown to catch a bus out of town.
Then, out of the corners of their eyes, Merithew said, he and Evans caught a glimpse of the truck they had been looking for. The two officers just looked at each other and started to follow the vehicle.
Minis led police through the city before what Butler termed a cat-and-mouse game began to unravel at the Donelson motel.
As more police arrived, the box around Minis shrank.
Besides shooting at Butler, Minis fired toward Merithew and other officers.
Butler figured that he and Merithew could keep the ex-convict distracted and use that to their advantage.
Butler kept closing in.
From about 20 feet away, partly shielded by the concrete base of a small light pole, Butler watched as Minis cocked the hammer and put his finger on the trigger of the gun at hostage Limor Ribak's head. Her mother was the second hostage, sandwiching Minis from behind.
''I thought he was going to shoot,'' Butler said.
He didn't have a good view of Minis; all he could see was his nose. It wasn't the moment.
Minis had moved to a carwash, hovering in a bay area with the two hostages.
Bruria Ribak had moved off to Minis' side, and Butler took position by a carwash coin machine.
''All I see is his shoulders and the side of his head,'' Butler said, ''and at that point I took decisive action and it was over.'' Butler shot Minis once in the head with a lead slug from his shotgun. Minis died instantly and the women were free. Police said their initial investigation indicates the shooting was justified.
Merithew held his fire because he had buckshot, not slugs, in his police-issued shotgun. The shot would scatter if he fired, preventing a clean shot at Minis and putting the hostages in danger. Police said officers can choose whether to load with slugs or shot.
Many times, Butler said, he had mentally rehearsed what he would do in a showdown with someone like Minis.
''I knew I was successful the instant I pulled the trigger,'' Butler said.
''You survived. You're a survivor,'' Merithew told Limor Ribak afterward. Throughout the ordeal, she was clad only in a one-piece swimsuit and wore no shoes.
Merithew and Butler praised all the officers who worked to capture Minis.
''I knew we could deal with it together,'' Merithew said.
The top priority was the hostages, Butler said.
''They've got to get out of it at all costs,'' he said. He knew he would have just one chance to act, and he'd have to execute it perfectly. Both officers said they gave Minis the option of surrendering peacefully, but he chose not to.
Minis, Butler said, ''was not going to escape. He was not going to get into another car with those ladies. He was not going to get away under any circumstances.''
Kathy Carlson covers law enforcement for The Tennessean. She can be reached at 259-8047 or firstname.lastname@example.org