Alexandria officers cleared in Iraq war vet's death

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2007 - 9:59 PM

The Sauk Rapids man had led officers on a chase and had pointed a weapon at them.

ALEXANDRIA, MINN. - Drunk, reportedly suicidal and brimming with hostility, Brian William Skold climbed out of his pickup truck and shot a round of birdshot in the air before threatening authorities last month.

The Iraq war veteran's last of about six cell phone conversations with a negotiator on that May 27 morning warned, "The next one is solid lead and it ain't going in the [expletive] air."

Skold, 28, of Sauk Rapids, walked into a nearby ditch, knelt on one knee and leveled his shotgun at authorities, a squad car video released Thursday shows. Moments later he was fatally shot by two Alexandria police officers.

"All of those things are indicative of a firefight, not a suicide," said Douglas County Attorney Christopher Karpan after the videos were released.

"There could be no other conclusion than that the use of deadly force was justified."

Karpan said Thursday that the officers' actions were appropriate when each fired three shots, killing Skold about 6:55 a.m. that day.

Skold had led authorities on a chase starting about 4:30 a.m. He also had fired another round of birdshot into the air earlier in the incident.

Skold served in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard in 2004 and 2005.

Skold's father, William Skold of Madison, Minn., said Thursday that depression from a recent divorce and his son's 13 months in Iraq were partly to blame for his actions. However, Brian William Skold's ex-wife, Amanda Skold, has said his military service was not a factor.

Said William Skold: "I feel that [police] were justified in doing what they did. And I feel sorry that they had to do that."

Authorities said a number of Skold's personal problems culminated in the shooting, but they would not speak about that in detail. Karpan said Skold reportedly was angry with his ex-girlfriend's husband. The ex-girlfriend and her husband live in Alexandria with Skold's 8-year-old son, Karpan said. (Skold has three other children.) At the time of the chase, authorities believe, he was headed to Alexandria. The county attorney also said that a few weeks before the shooting, Sauk Rapids police were called when Skold smashed the windows out of his mother's car. However, authorities said the exact motives for his actions May 27 are unclear.

At his family's request, footage of Skold being shot was not shown to reporters at a news conference Thursday. Karpan said that Skold was struck by three of the six shots fired, stood up, took two steps and collapsed. Authorities said his blood-alcohol content was 0.18 percent, more than two times the legal limit for driving.

The officers who shot him, Sgt. Chad Schroeder and officer Tony Kuhnau, are back on duty. They were acting as members of the SWAT team.

"I'm not unmindful of the loss of life here," Karpan said. "No one is. Having said that, the officers did what they had to do legally, logically and morally."

Karpan said that by moving off the blacktop of Interstate Hwy. 94, Skold placed himself in an advantageous location for a firefight: Bullets bounce off blacktop while a ditch provides cover.

According to an independent investigation into the shooting conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a slug was found in the chamber of Skold's rifle and four rounds were found in the magazine. Five live rounds also were found on the ground near his body and five more in his pockets. More rounds were found in his truck, which also contained a partly consumed bottle of Boone's Farm wine.

Skold appeared to have prepared strategically by alternately loading birdshot and lead slugs in his rifle, Karpan said. Birdshot is deadly at close range but not from farther away, he said. Lead slugs are effective at greater distances.

William Skold is less convinced that his son's actions were planned.

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