Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Minnesota: No charges against St. Paul officers who fatally shot man and vicious pit bull in May, Ramsey County attorney says

MINNESOTA -- A St. Paul police officer will not be charged in the fatal shooting of a man who fired a shotgun at him last May, the Ramsey County attorney’s office said Wednesday.

Eugene F. Smith, 29, died in a home on May 26 on East Minnehaha Avenue near Winthrop Street.

On Wednesday, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s office said that he and his staff “determined that the use of deadly force by St. Paul Police Officer Joshua Raichert in this shooting incident was legally justified” under Minnesota law.

Smith’s shot from a 20-gauge shotgun hit the wall above Raichert’s shoulder, and the officer fired six shots from his AR-15 rifle at Smith, according to the county attorney’s office. Smith fired after police shot a pit bull that charged at them, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said last year.

St. Paul officers were familiar with the house at 2163 E. Minnehaha Avenue because they “had been made aware by multiple sources that illegal drugs and firearms were present at the property,” according to a Ramsey County attorney’s office memo about the case.

In May, police received information that a man staying at the home had a felony warrant and officers executed an arrest warrant at the home on May 17. They didn’t find the man, but saw firearms, ammunition and methamphetamine “in plain view in the house,” according to the memo.

On May 26 at about 1:50 p.m., a patrol officer arrested two people leaving the house and called for back-up. Raichert, a St. Paul officer serving on the FBI Safe Streets Task Force — which investigates violent crime and drug activity — responded to the home with other officers.

One of the men arrested, who had the felony warrant, told police “there was a pit bull in the house that could pose a problem for officers who entered it,” the memo said.

Police decided to conduct a “protective sweep” of the home to determine if other people were inside. The task force officers were not in regular police officer uniforms, but wore raid vests marked with “Police” in large letters on the front and back, the memo said.

Raichert and another officer who were leading the way said they each “loudly exclaimed ‘St. Paul Police’” multiple times in the house to announce their presence, according to the memo.

The officers saw a pit bull at the top of a staircase that was “growling, barking and looking not happy,” according to an officer, who said the dog ran down the stairs toward him and he shot the dog.

Police then went to check the last room of the house. Raichert and another officer announced themselves as officers and Raichert kicked open the door because he believed it was locked, the memo said.

Raichert saw a man, later identified as Smith, standing behind a woman and he ordered both of them “show your hands” and identified himself as an officer, the memo said. The woman dropped to the floor next to the bed and had her head and hands under it.

The officer saw Smith point an object at him, which he “quickly identified … as resembling ‘a rifle without a stock,’” the memo said. Raichert disengaged the safety on his AR-15 and shot Smith until the man fell backward and was no longer holding his weapon. He estimated that less than 10 seconds had passed from the time he entered the room until the exchange of gunfire.

[edited for length]

The BCA interviewed the woman who was with Smith when he was killed and she described him as a methamphetamine dealer and herself as a meth user, according to the memo. Toxicology testing showed that Smith had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system.

(Pioneer Press - March 8, 2017)