Minneapolis officers used deadly force to protect themselves and nearby citizens, the department says.
Pursued through north Minneapolis by two squad cars, a suspected car thief died early Thursday when he careered into an unrelated police call and was shot after speeding toward four officers standing in the street.
The chase began just after midnight near the intersection of W. Broadway and Penn Avenue N. Two blocks away, officers had responded to a "shots fired" call and placed three men in a squad car parked on Morgan Avenue N. near Golden Valley Road.
Within minutes, the two incidents had converged.
After a short, high-speed pursuit, Ahmed Guled turned down a street and confronted a pair of parked vehicles and the two squads dealing with the shooting suspects. Police video shows that he directed his car at the officers standing in the street and that three of them opened fire, said several sources with knowledge of the shooting.
Guled, 23, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, fell out of his car and died at the scene, police said. Although the officers involved haven't given official statements to investigators, Chief Tim Dolan said witness statements will corroborate that "we have a justified shooting." None of the officers was injured.
"The officers feared for their lives and needed to protect citizens," said Sgt. Jesse Garcia. "How often does one incident flow into another? Maybe he thought a roadblock had been set up."
Police didn't release the name of the six officers involved in the incidents. They have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard policy.
The incident will be investigated by the department's homicide unit and the results forwarded to the Hennepin County attorney's office. A grand jury is required to hear evidence in any officer-involved death. The department's internal affairs unit will also review the incident.
The medical examiner's office ruled Guled's death a homicide. That ruling indicates that other people were involved in his death and doesn't necessarily indicate malfeasance or unprofessional conduct.
Guled, of St. Paul, was first spotted by an officer who checked the car's license plate and discovered the vehicle had been reported stolen. The officer called for backup, then started toward the car. Guled drove away at a high speed, Garcia said. Guled had previously been arrested for being a fugitive, according to court records.
Guled nearly hit a sport-utility vehicle, Garcia said. The officer didn't turn on his red lights and siren until he saw Guled turn right onto Morgan Avenue N., two blocks away.
At the end of the block near Golden Valley Road, two parked cars and two squads involved in the "shots fired" incident left only enough room for one car to pass through, Garcia said. Four officers were standing outside their squad cars, and had three men in custody in one of the squad cars. It appeared Guled wasn't going to slow down, police said.
The officers yelled at Guled to "stop, stop, stop," Garcia said. Witnesses in several houses heard the officers' orders, he said.
Guled hit the open door of one of the officers' cars, pinning him back as the officer fired shots. All the officers were at close range when they shot at Guled, police said.
"He came right at the officers," Garcia said. "He tried to thread his car through the needle."
Guled fell out of the car, which traveled another block before smashing into a parked van. Demarcus Washington, one of three men in the squad car, said Guled's body landed right next to the car. Police said Washington had been arrested during a traffic stop, but he said he was in the area because he didn't have a driver's license and was waiting for his aunt to give him a ride. She also saw the shooting.
When Washington heard morning news reports about the shooting, he said, he believed police were giving out false information. Washington said it appeared Guled was driving about 20 miles per hour on Morgan Avenue when the officers started firing.
"I think this shooting was an execution," he said. "One officer started shooting and then 20 more shots must have been fired by the officers."
Officers handcuffed Guled after he was shot, said Washington, who attends school in Moorhead. He said he saw bullet holes in the windshield and driver's side window. "Why didn't they just try and shoot his tires?" he asked.
Garcia said officers have only a split second to make a decision to use force. There would have been no guarantee that a bullet shot at a tire would have stopped the car, he said.
"Officers need to stop the threat and survive," he said. David Chanen • 612-673-4465