Video: Minn. officer shot to death during traffic stop
Jurors will decide whether Brian Fitch Sr. is guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in the July 30 killing of Officer Scott Patrick
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — It started as a routine traffic stop and ended with frantic efforts to save the life of Mendota Heights police Officer Scott Patrick.
Jurors in the Brian Fitch Sr. murder trial watched video Thursday afternoon captured by Patrick's squad car that showed the traffic stop and shooting of the 18-year veteran officer. The dramatic footage brought a hush to the Stearns County courtroom where Fitch is facing murder charges for Patrick's death.
Stearns County jurors will decide whether Fitch is guilty of first-degree murder and other charges after the trial was moved from Dakota County because of pretrial publicity. Testimony is expected to continue Monday.
The jury saw two videos Thursday, one with audio showing the inside of Patrick's squad and another that showed what someone seated in Patrick's seat would see. The latter video had no audio.
The second video clearly showed the vehicle prosecutors say Fitch was driving when Patrick was shot three times. It shows Patrick falling to the street after being shot near the intersection of Smith Avenue and Dodd Road, where chaos quickly ensued as passersby and first responders tried to save him.
Testimony from eyewitnesses and the doctor who performed the autopsy on Patrick indicated that Patrick likely was dead within seconds of being shot. Two of the wounds — one to the head and the abdomen — would have been fatal by themselves, said Dr. Victor Froloff, the assistant Ramsey County Medical Examiner who did the autopsy.
Bystanders tried to save Patrick as first responders rushed to the scene, some calling Patrick by his first name because they knew him.
A woman with a medical background saw the shooting and immediately rendered first aid to Patrick.
"I saw him put his arm up and go to the ground," Jennifer O'Keefe said.
She said she saw the puff of smoke from the gunshots and rushed to Patrick's side after pulling over in the street.
"You don't expect to see that, so you're kind of thinking 'Did that really happen?' " she said.
O'Keefe, a medical assistant who was dressed in blue scrubs at the time of the shooting, found Patrick face down in the street when she reached him. She rolled him over and began chest compressions.
She quickly knew that Patrick was likely beyond help. Her chest compressions only increased the flow of blood coming out of wound to the top right side of his head, she said.
She later picked Fitch out of one photo lineup but picked three people out of a second photo lineup who she said might be the shooter.
Fitch's defense attorneys told jurors that eyewitness descriptions in the case describe someone other than Fitch.
O'Keefe was one of several witnesses who described the shooter as being in his teens or early 20s, with blond hair. Fitch is in his 40s and was bald at the time of the shooting.
Those eyewitnesses also said they were more certain of the vehicle the shooter was driving and his race than they were about other details of his description. They all described a green Pontiac passenger car as being the vehicle that left the shooting scene.
Prosecutors told jurors in opening statements that Fitch had bought a green Grand Am, although he never transferred the title. He later dumped the vehicle and exchanged it for a blue SUV that he was driving during a later shootout with police, prosecutors contend.
One of Fitch's attorneys, Lauri Traub, told jurors that the eyewitness testimony was only one of things that don't fit the prosecution's version of the case. The timeline of events that day and the forensic examination of the gun believed to be the murder weapon also are problems, she said.
She conceded that Fitch was a drug dealer and said he was doing business "in plain view" the day Patrick was shot.
"Brian Fitch is a drug dealer," Traub told jurors. "He's a fairly busy one."
But she told jurors that the holes in the prosecution's case add up to him being not guilty.
The case is expected to last up to three weeks in front of a jury of seven women and seven men.
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