The questions haunting relatives and friends of an Austin, Minn., man shot and killed by Minnetonka police may remain unanswered for months.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the officer-involved shooting of Michael Tray, 27, in an apartment parking garage on Wednesday, but in similar cases, it’s taken months before details are publicly released.
It was the first officer-involved fatal shooting in Minnetonka history and at least the sixth such death statewide so far this year, according to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Although Tray was carrying a gun, family and friends say the lack of details about what prompted police to shoot makes coping with his death and preparing for his funeral Tuesday all the more difficult.
“My heart goes out to them [the Minnetonka police officers involved],” Tray’s stepfather, Jim Greer, of Austin, said Friday, “but on the other hand, my 27-year-old stepson is dead. … I don’t understand.”
Police were called to the Claremont Apartments at 10761 Smetana Road just before 8:30 p.m. Wednesday after a resident said a man who didn’t live there was walking around with a cocked revolver. Minutes later, police confronted him in the underground parking garage, where he was shot and killed.
Greer said Tray had been fixing up his late father’s house in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he found an antique .44-Magnum revolver. After attempted robberies in the area, Tray hadn’t wanted to leave the gun there while he visited his girlfriend at her Minnetonka apartment, Greer said. He said he had warned Tray to keep the gun in his car, but he also questions now whether the gun was loaded. He said Tray’s girlfriend told him she was on the phone with Tray when she heard screaming and the line went dead.
Tray, a graduate of St. Cloud State University, has no violent criminal past, public records show.
Richdale Apartments, which owns the complex, declined to comment Friday when asked whether there are surveillance cameras in the garage.
The names of the officers involved will be released next week, but the county investigation details may not be disclosed for weeks.
Investigations take time
After a Minneapolis officer-involved shooting, it took police more than four months to reveal details after a Hennepin County investigation and grand jury decided not to pursue charges against the officers. A Ramsey County investigation and grand jury decision into a St. Paul officer-involved shooting last year took more than five months, but no details were released after no charges were filed. State statutes justify the use of deadly force by law enforcement to protect an officer or someone else from death or great bodily harm, among other reasons.
“[The officers] make a judgment at the scene about what the appropriate response is,” said Mark Anderson, director of the Barbara Schneider Foundation, which offers training to local law enforcement about de-escalating crisis situations, though usually with people with mental illness. “It’s extremely traumatic for an officer to be involved in that situation. It’s a tragedy for everyone involved.”
In the meantime, Tray’s family members said they’re grateful for an outpouring of community support in southern Minnesota as they prepare for his funeral Tuesday. It will take place at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Austin.
“This is not how the boy should have died,” Greer said Friday. “He should have died an old man.”