A 25-year-old North St. Paul man remained jailed Saturday after a standoff early Friday in which one of eight hostages he was holding was shot dead by police at a Woodbury motel.
The victim, Mark Eric Henderson, 19, of St. Paul, was a hostage in the motel room commandeered by Demetrius S. Ballinger, authorities said. In an interview underway late Saturday afternoon, his family told the Star Tribune that Henderson was trying to escape when he was shot.
Ballinger, who held eight people hostage for nearly four hours at the Red Roof Inn near Valley Creek Road and Interstate 494, is to appear in court Tuesday, when he's expected to be charged with aggravated robbery, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping, police said.
Police said Henderson was shot after he emerged from the motel room, in which shots had just been fired, walked toward them and did not comply with their commands. They believed Henderson was armed, but no weapon was found in relation to him.
Ballinger surrendered just before 5 a.m. Friday after negotiations with a SWAT team.
According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the shootings unfolded this way:
Three Woodbury police officers responded to a 911 call at the Red Roof Inn, 1806 Wooddale Dr., at 1:10 a.m. Friday
"The preliminary investigation has found that, upon identifying the motel room where the disturbance was taking place, the officers encountered a male who pointed a handgun at them. The officers moved backward and yelled commands as they requested additional assistance," according to a BCA statement.
"The officers then heard a gunshot as the door opened and a male, later identified as Henderson, quickly emerged from the room and came toward them. Officers told BCA agents they believed that Henderson had a weapon, and was noncompliant with officer commands, at which point officers fired at Henderson. No weapon was recovered from Henderson."
Authorities said Ballinger fired the original shots from inside the motel room. He refused to come out of the room or to let the seven other people still inside the room leave.
The three Woodbury police officers who fired their weapons are on standard paid administrative leave. They are officer Anthony Ofstead, an 11-year veteran; officer Stacey Krech, who's been with the department for five years, and officer Natalie Martin, who's been with the department for two years.
'Freeze! Freeze! Freeze!'
The incident began with a 911 call on a line that was left open. A dispatcher heard commotion and someone mentioning a weapon.
Farris Nazzal, a 29-year-old musician staying at the motel, said he had been sleeping in a second-floor room when awakened by stomping outside on the walkway, then shouting:
"Get on your knees now! Get on your knees now! Freeze! Freeze! Freeze!"
Through his window, he saw police outside, guns drawn, at the room two doors down, Nazzal said.
He dressed quickly as police banged at his door, telling him to get out of there, Nazzal said. He ran downstairs.
Nazzal said he heard six or seven gunshots and from the first floor looked up to see a man lying on the balcony, six or seven officers around him.
"You got me! You got me!" the man was shouting at police. "He was yelling, and he was in pain," Nazzal added.
An ambulance came for that man, later identified as Henderson. He died soon afterward at Regions Hospital of gunshot wounds.
Nazzal then ran to a friend's first-floor room and peered out a window to see 30 or 40 officers in camouflage and body armor. Snipers were taking positions with rifles, he said, behind trees and other cover.
Nazzal estimated he saw about 40 police vehicles. "It was like being in Afghanistan," he said. "These guys were the real deal. The SWAT officers were a real impressive team."
More than three hours later, he heard what he thought was a "flash bomb," Nazzal said.
Suspect has long record
Several hostages were treated for injuries after they were freed, said BCA Agent Drew Evans.
In addition to new allegations of armed robbery, criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping, Ballinger also was held on old charges related to criminal property damage and disorderly conduct, officials said.
In June 2009, he was convicted of domestic assault involving his estranged wife, with whom he had lived for a time in St. Louis. Both moved to Minnesota, where their parents have lived, and recently listed separate addresses in Ramsey County.
In August 2009, Ballinger was convicted in Ramsey County District Court of violating a no-contact order. He had been arrested at least twice for such violations.
Police were not disclosing whether Ballinger's violent relationship with the woman, a professional party planner who has attended Century College, played a role in the incident, or if she was one of the hostages.
Staff writers Nicole Norfleet and Joy Powell contributed to this report.