A man seen waving a gun at a St. Paul impound lot early Monday was later shot and killed by police officers after he ignored repeated commands to raise his hands, officials and witnesses said.
Officers ordered the man, whose name and age haven’t been released, to take his hands out of his pockets after cornering him in the backyard of a house in the 700 block of Buffalo Street, witnesses said. When he refused, they reportedly opened fire, striking him multiple times. Witnesses reported hearing up to 50 rounds.
“It sounded like a cannon went off,” witness Brian Lucio said, adding that at least one officer had fired a shotgun.
The investigation of the shooting on the quiet two-block street in the North End neighborhood, was quickly taken over by investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Breaking from past policy, St. Paul police officials announced earlier this year that they will now refer all officer-involved shootings to either the BCA or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office as a way of strengthening public trust.
Police were called to the 100 block of E. Acker Street sometime before 3:30 a.m. on Monday after someone reported seeing a man waving a handgun in the lobby of Rapid Recovery Inc., a towing company. It’s unclear what prompted the incident, but emergency dispatchers said the man and a woman he was with were seen walking north on Jackson Street, according to scanner audio posted on MN Police Clips.
Officers followed the man into the backyard of a house in the middle of the block on Buffalo Street, where a standoff ensued. Shortly after arriving, one of the officers is heard over the air telling a dispatcher that they were being fired upon: “We’ve got shots fired. … We’re getting shots fired at us,” according to scanner audio. One officer told the dispatcher that “we have the male at gunpoint,” while another is heard saying that “I need a long gun, a shotgun or a rifle.” Moments later, police opened fire.
The officers involved have been placed on three-day paid administrative leave. Authorities have not yet identified them, and have released few details about what led to the shooting.
Investigators spent most of the morning sifting through the scene, interviewing shaken witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage from Rapid Recovery.
The shooting surprised neighbors, who described the area as quiet and peaceful.
Lucio, who lives a couple of houses down from where the shooting occurred, said he was awakened by the officers shouting at the man to drop his weapon. Moments later, Lucio said, police opened fire.
“The man wouldn’t listen to the commands,” Lucio said. “They unloaded their clips on him.”
Lucio said he also saw a woman who was “bleeding profusely” from a wound to her head, but he said it’s unclear how she was hurt.
Police spokesman Mike Ernster said during a brief news conference Monday morning that the man was dead at the scene, while the woman was taken to Regions Hospital. Her condition was not known as of Monday afternoon.
The shooting, which occurred amid a national debate over police use of force and race, was the 24th fatal St. Paul police shooting since 2000.
Arianna Thompson, who lives just down the block from where Monday’s shootings occurred, said she scurried to get five children — ranging in age from one month to 8 years old — to safety.
“I pulled them onto the floor,” she said. “I heard lots of yelling. I was scared to go outside. This was shocking. Something like this should never happen. St. Paul is getting really bad.”
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.