A New Hope police officer acted properly when he fatally shot a suicidal man who aimed a gun at one of several officers closing in on him at his garage in Crystal, the Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.
"Criminal charges are not supported by evidence or appropriate under law in this case," Freeman wrote in his evaluation of the case, which he reviewed with two prosecutors. "However, this case is still very much a tragedy for all involved. Both the family of Ronald Klitzka and law enforcement attempted to provide him with assistance. Ultimately, while unfortunate, use of deadly force was objectively reasonable in the face of death or great bodily harm."
Officer Benjamin Harty fatally shot Ronald Klitzka on Nov. 11, 2017, after the 62-year-old man had fired his gun at least twice while police were trying to defuse the situation, according to investigators. Klitzka appeared to be taking aim at Harty when he was shot.
A niece of Klitzka's who was at the scene leading up to the gunfire agreed that police acted properly in dealing with her uncle, who was distressed over his brother's suicide days earlier in Brooklyn Park.
"The [decision] doesn't surprise me at all as he was aiming ... at the police," said Brenda Lewis, who added that she positioned herself between her uncle and police at one point during the standoff. "I feel bad for the officers who were involved. We assumed the police did what they had to do and it was justified."
Lewis said she had tried in vain to get police in Brooklyn Park to put him on a mandatory hold at a hospital for psychological problems after her other uncle's suicide.
"He talked himself out of the hospital," she said. "I knew in my heart he was going to kill himself. … I am the one who begged for a 72-hour psych evaluation. … I had no idea that he would have a shootout with the police."
According to the investigation by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office:
Five days earlier, Klitzka went to his brother's house in Brooklyn Park because he hadn't heard from him lately. Klitzka found his 57-year-old brother, Frederick Klitzka III, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Klitzka called police and was visibly upset when they arrived, saying he would kill himself. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Medical records indicated that Klitzka was not suicidal but blamed himself for his brother's death because he had not given him money when he asked for it and because his brother used one of Klitzka's guns to kill himself.
Four days later, Klitzka and his wife ran errands and returned to their home in the 5000 block of Angeline Avenue N. He appeared in the kitchen holding a bottle of alcohol and a gun, prompting her to leave.
Police were called and established a perimeter. His stepdaughter went to the command post and reported that Klitzka said he wanted to be shot by police officers.
Klitzka called 911 and said he was going to shoot everyone. Another time, he said he would come out with guns blazing.
In the meantime, two Crystal and two New Hope officers began moving toward Klitzka's house. They could hear him sounding angry and erratic. They also saw a red laser beam moving in concert with his movements, leading them to believe it was a laser sight on a gun. They also heard him fire at least two shots in his garage.
Officer Harty tracked Klitzka through the scope of his gun, and saw Klitzka exit the garage, raise his arm and point the red laser beam in his direction and at other officers near him. Harty shot once, striking Klitzka in the head.
"Police were aware of the statements he made of killing them and others, that he had fired shots already and negotiations had failed," the statement from Freeman's office read. "He then pointed a gun in the direction of Officer Harty and others."