Brian G. Fitch Sr., the man accused of shooting Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick on July 30, entered a not guilty plea Monday in Dakota County District Court.
Fitch, 39, appeared in court in a wheelchair with his left arm in a cast. His voice was raspy as he answered yes or no to three brief questions from District Judge Mary Theisen during the 10-minute hearing. His attorney, Lauri Traub, entered the plea on his behalf.
The defendant is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Patrick, 47, who was shot to death about 12:20 p.m. July 30 after he tried to make a routine traffic stop on Dodd Road near Smith Avenue S. in West St. Paul. A manhunt in St. Paul’s North End ended with a standoff and shootout with police. Fitch was shot eight times.
In addition to the two counts of first-degree murder Fitch faces in connection with Patrick’s death, other charges include three counts of first-degree attempted murder, three counts of a dangerous weapon drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault and one count of possession of a weapon.
Theisen said she was concerned that a hearing, scheduled for Dec. 16, in which defense attorneys plan to challenge some of the evidence against Fitch, needed to be earlier in order for the trial to begin Jan. 12. All parties agreed to a Nov. 17 date for the hearing.
On Thursday, Fitch’s attorneys filed a motion seeking a trial change of venue because of extensive pretrial publicity and to suppress statements Fitch made to two investigators on July 31 while he was hospitalized. The motion also asked to separate the charges filed jointly by Dakota and Ramsey counties and to dismiss the grand jury indictment on several grounds.
Jury selection is expected to take a week.