A man with a violent criminal history shot and killed another person at a busy Plymouth intersection Friday night, then died while exchanging gunfire with officers inside a nearby apartment building.
“Multiple police officers” were “marginally injured” during the confrontation at the apartment complex, Plymouth Police Chief Mike Goldstein said at a news conference. He declined to say if they were shot, but the injured officers were to be hospitalized at least overnight.
The series of events leading to the apartment shootout began just before 9:15 p.m., when 911 callers reported that a person was lying in the road near the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Rockford Road after being shot. Scanner traffic reported that the shooter had fled in a black vehicle.
It is not clear whether the shooter and the person killed in the street knew each other, Goldstein said.
Four minutes later, someone called 911 to report that a man had pointed “a long gun” at him at an apartment complex in the 5200 block of Annapolis Lane N., Goldstein said. He declined to confirm that the building was the shooter’s residence, although scanner traffic reported that earlier.
Plymouth police officers went into the building to confront the gunman, and he was killed in the subsequent exchange of gunfire in “tight quarters,” Goldstein said. He said it was not yet known whether the gunman killed himself or was killed by police.
Many details about the shootings remained unclear Saturday. Plymouth police said they’ll hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. at that town’s City Hall to provide some information.
Bill Schletzer, a Plymouth resident, was headed east on Rockford Road, stopped at a red light at Northwest Boulevard on the way home from the gym Friday night. A large SUV pulled up beside him in the lefthand turn lane, he said, before making a wild maneuver to drive in front of all the stopped cars and up the right-hand shoulder.
That's when Schletzer heard the gunshots. More than a dozen rang out as the suspect began chasing a woman around the intersection in his vehicle, Schletzer said. At one point, the woman leaned over a stopped driver's passenger window pleading for help, he said, but everyone was frozen in their cars or already calling 911.
"You wouldn't have wanted to get involved in this," he said.
Without any assistance, the woman turned and ran in front of their cars to a patch of grass and snow off the road. The suspect continued shooting before running her down in the SUV at a high speed, Schletzer said. Then the man drove away.
"She just folded up like a rag doll," he said. "This was the most violent and intense thing I've ever seen."
Witnesses were left stunned in their cars, unable to move while waiting for police to arrive.
It remains unclear where the woman came from. Schletzer believed she must have fled the suspect's vehicle after a dispute because she wasn't seen walking in the area before the incident.
"There was no way this was random," he said. "Had everyone in that intersection been armed with guns, they couldn't have prevented what he did."
A woman who was among four apartment residents who encountered the suspect during a terrifying five minutes in the parking garage late Friday described what she saw.
Leah Grimes gave her account upon returning to the building Saturday afternoon after spending the night elsewhere.
The man drove recklessly into the parking garage as she parked her car and a family of two parents and a baby unloaded groceries just after 9 p.m., Grimes said. The driver's window of the suspect's vehicle was smashed, she said, and the driver appeared "nonsensical," injured or intoxicated.
The two parents "grabbed the baby literally right before he smashed into [their] car,” she said. "He wasn't stopping, just slamming into [the family's sedan] completely irrationally and erratically."
The suspect got out wielding a gun, and the father tried to negotiate with him, Grimes said, pleading for the safety of his baby.
Grimes and the mother, who was holding the baby, hid behind parked cars and then ran toward a staircase in the opposite corner of the parking garage, racing up to the second floor. Grimes said she glanced backward, detected that the suspect wasn't chasing them and "felt safe" enough to bolt.
After they reached Grimes' second-floor apartment, they heard about 15 shots being fired, Grimes said. They sounded like they came from the second-floor stairwell, she added.
Grimes called 911 to report an active shooter at 9:18 p.m. She and the family she was with were taken to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office around midnight to talk to authorities about what they saw.
As the drama unfolded, police and SWAT officers from several west metro law enforcement agencies swarmed to the two locations, just east and west of Interstate 494 in Plymouth. The gunman, described as “an active shooter,” was said to have a black shotgun and multiple magazines, as well as wearing a bullet-resistant vest.
Residents in the area were told to stay inside. No one in the building where the gunman died was hit by gunfire.
Just after 11 p.m., scanner reports said that the danger had been “neutralized” — that the shooter was dead in a stairwell of the apartment building. At the news conference, Goldstein declined to say where the gunman died, describing it only as “tight quarters.”
Goldstein described the man’s history with authorities as a violent one, but he declined to describe it further.
Residents of the apartment building where the gunman died eventually were told by police officers knocking on their doors that the danger was past, and those who had fled or were outside were escorted back to their apartments, he said.
At the scene of the initial confrontation, a body lay covered in the street late in the night as investigators worked, and broken glass was scattered over the road. Rockford Road reopened at 9:30 a.m. Saturday after being closed for investigators to comb the scene.
“Plymouth is a very safe community,” Goldstein said of the night’s events. “This was an atypical Friday night.”
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has been asked to join investigation, he said.