Two South St. Paul police officers were wounded during a flurry of gunfire Thursday afternoon while responding to a 911 call in a residential neighborhood.
Police Chief Bill Messerich declined to identify the wounded officers but said that one, an 11-year police veteran, was shot in the shoulder and hospitalized. The other, a six-year veteran, was hit near the leg. He did not require hospitalization.
“While our situation had the potential for a much more tragic outcome than it did, I’m grateful the injuries to our officers were not any worse than they are,” Messerich said.
The 33-year-old male suspect was not hurt. He was booked into the Dakota County jail Thursday evening, where he’s awaiting formal charges of attempted second-degree murder and use of deadly force against a peace officer, authorities said. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects before they are charged.
According to public records, the suspect has a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder and schizoaffective disorder, as well as a history of violent behavior. He was civilly committed as mentally ill and dangerous four times from 2003 to 2009 following “incidents when he threatened or harmed himself or someone else,” court documents show.
He was convicted of assault in 2008 after severely beating his outpatient psychiatrist, who had treated him with antipsychotic medication, according to records.
Thursday’s shootout broke out at a supportive-housing unit in the 500 block of 12th Avenue N., where officers responded about 12:50 p.m. to a report about a missing person having returned. An officer was on the phone with that person, who “sounded distraught and ended the call abruptly,” Messerich said. Police then went to the caller’s address.
Soon after their arrival, “the suspect obtained a shotgun and fired at our officers,” Messerich said. Officers returned fire but did not strike the suspect, who dropped the gun and was arrested.
“I am down,” one officer can be heard telling emergency dispatch, his words accompanied by echoes of gunshots in the background. “I have been hit, the left shoulder. ... He is constantly shooting at us with a shotgun.”
Moments later, police said they had the suspect “down on the ground” and in custody.
‘He didn’t look rattled’
Stanley Young was delivering meals from a nonprofit to the housing complex when the shooting unfolded.
“No more than 5-6 feet away from me, this guy appears with a shotgun, fires two shots toward the officers,” Young said. “He seemed calm at what he was doing. It took me a moment to realize that was a shotgun in his hand. He didn’t look rattled or, like, ‘this is it for me.’ ”
The residence is run by Everyday Living, which provides temporary housing in the Twin Cities and elsewhere for people with mental illness, addiction and traumatic brain injuries. The complex had 110 calls for police service in 2017 and 62 so far this year.
Young said he has been delivering meals in that neighborhood for about two years and has never encountered any troubling activity. “I spoke about moving to South St. Paul [from east St. Paul] because it’s so quiet,” he said.
Patsy Patet was cleaning the house with her 8-year-old nephew nearby when she heard multiple popping noises. “I thought they were fireworks at first but then heard the sirens and got goose bumps,” she said.
When she saw reports of gunfire filling the community Facebook page on her phone, Patet locked the door and took her nephew into the basement.
Barbarah Christophersen ran outside to see if she had heard fireworks. Less than half a block from her home, she heard a man yell, “I’ll shoot you,” and “Get in here, get in here, I have the gun,” she recalled. “I beat tracks back to the house and called 911,” she said.
Her neighbor, Lori Remmen, was in her garage with her 7-year-old daughter and ran back to the house and locked the doors. “I wasn’t sure if he was still on the loose,” she said. “We’ve never had gunshots this close to our house. I’m not sure I’m going to sleep tonight.”