06/12/2013

Minn. officers fatally shoot armed man

When the officers attempted to take the man into custody he reached for the area where the gun was located

Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH, Minn. — Two Duluth police officers fatally shot an armed man early today after a traffic crash.

The 26-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene outside a house on the 300 block of East Locust Street. Neither officer was physically injured. The officers will be placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in these cases.

The two will be off duty for at least three days but will be allowed more time off if they need it, Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken said at an afternoon news conference.

"These incidents are incredibly hard on officers and their families," Tusken said.

The incident began at 1:59 a.m. when officers responded to a report of a single-vehicle crash in the area of Orange Street and Arlington Avenue. The vehicle involved ran off the road, hit a tree and suffered heavy damage, Tusken said. The driver fled the scene.

Two officers responded to the area of the 300 block of East Locust Street where the vehicle's registered owner lives. There, approximately 30 minutes after the crash, one officer encountered the 26-year-old man armed with a handgun. The officer radioed for assistance and shouted commands at the man. The second officer in the area arrived to help, and both officers repeated loud verbal commands to attempt to get the man to comply. The encounter lasted for more than three minutes. 

When the officers attempted to take the man into custody he reached for the area where the gun was located. Both officers fired weapons, hitting the man who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Citing the fact that the shooting is under investigation, Tusken declined to say how close the officers were to the gunman, what type of handgun he had or specifically what they commanded him to do.

Tusken did say the man's gun was "near his chest area."

Police have not released his name, pending positive identification and full family notifications.

One of the officers involved is a five-year veteran of department and the second officer is a four-year veteran. Neither officer was injured. At the department's request, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting. Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact the BCA at (651) 793-7000.

When the BCA completes its report, a county attorney's office will use it to help determine whether the officers were justified in shooting.

While violent crime has declined across the U.S. and Duluth, the number of officer-involved shootings in the city has increased in the past few years, Tusken said.

The last time a Duluth police officer fatally shot a suspect was Aug. 28, 2011, when Sgt. Brad Wick shot robbery suspect Brian Cayce Butala in the Gary-New Duluth area. St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin determined that Wick used justifiable force.

On Aug. 5, 2010, Officer Jeffrey Keast fatally shot Joseph "Joey" Carl, 17, near Carl's Norton Park home. The Scott County Attorney's Office reviewed the shooting and said Keast was justified in using deadly force as Carl violently attacked his squad car with a baseball bat as the officer sat behind the wheel.

On March 21, 2010, Officer Angela Robertson shot and wounded a group home resident in West Duluth. The resident was attempting to take Robertson's partner's gun at the time. The officers were there because the resident allegedly had attacked a caregiver and had started fires inside the group home. The St. Louis County Attorney's Office decided Robertson's actions were justified.

"This incident drive home that this is a very dangerous job," Tusken said today. "Human behavior is unpredictable."

Copyright 2013 the Duluth News Tribune


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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