OIS trial: LEOs say that they felt threatened by armed suicidal man before he was shot

One deputy said he was so focused on saving the man's life during a lengthy negotiation that he looked past several factors that would have justified using deadly force

Matt McKinney
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

STILLWATER, Minn. — Two Washington County sheriff's deputies testified in court Thursday that they felt threatened by an armed and suicidal man shortly before their colleague, Deputy Brian Krook, shot him to death.

Their testimony about the 2018 shooting of Benjamin Evans, 23, bolstered the account of Krook, who has told investigators that he fired the fatal shots almost 40 minutes into negotiations with Evans because Evans turned in such a way that the gun he was holding to his head was also pointed at the deputies.

Krook, 31, was indicted by a grand jury on second-degree manslaughter charges over the April 12, 2018, incident. He is the third law enforcement officer in recent years to face criminal charges for a fatal shooting while on duty in Minnesota.

Testifying on Thursday, Deputy Joshua Ramirez said he was so focused on saving Evans' life during a lengthy negotiation with the suicidal man that he looked past several factors that would have justified using deadly force.

Evans had his finger on the trigger of a handgun, and even though he had it pointed at his own head, he kept turning around so that the gun would sweep past the deputy's position, Ramirez said. He added that he negotiated longer than he should have.

"In hindsight, I probably should have shot him," Ramirez said. He said he might have decided not to use force that night because he "missed something," or it could have been "incompetence on my part."

Hearing that, prosecutor Thomas B. Hatch accused Ramirez of using his testimony to help Krook's defense.

"When you say 'should have,' you're trying to help Krook with his testimony, right? Just say it," said Hatch.

Ramirez insisted that wasn't true, and that based on his training he now believes he had justification to shoot Evans.

"But you choose not to," said Hatch.

"I chose not to," said Ramirez.

A second deputy, Michael Ramos, also testified that he felt threatened that night, saying Evans was "flagging" the deputies every time he turned his head. The deputies explained that "flagging" meant Evans was pointing his gun at them.

But Ramos didn't use that term when he spoke to the grand jury, and prosecutors asked him why he characterized it that way now.

"Did he ever point the gun at you?" prosecutor Andrew R.K. Johnson asked Ramos.

"He was flagging us," said Ramos.

"Was his head in the way?" asked Johnson.

"Not every time," said Ramos.

In opening statements Wednesday, prosecutors told the jury that Krook had ignored his own training when he fatally shot Evans. Defense attorneys said that Evans wanted to commit suicide-by-cop and that Krook's actions were "courageous," pointing out that Evans had a blood alcohol content of 0.204.

Evans, who had worked as an EMT and was in the process of becoming a Lake Elmo firefighter, was holding a semiautomatic handgun to his head after learning that his friend was dating his ex-girlfriend.

Video evidence showed that Krook fired without alerting his colleagues or warning Evans, who was in the middle of negotiations with Ramirez.

The trial, in Washington County Court before Judge Mary A. Yunker, is scheduled to continue Friday.

©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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