Deshawn D. Nelson allegedly raised a handgun at a St. Paul police officer Sunday morning, prompting the officer to fire multiple shots as he fled over fences, according to charges filed Monday. The shooting left nearby homes in the Merriam Park neighborhood riddled with bullet holes.
“There’s a lot of bullets,” said Bill Bobick, who found Nelson convulsing on the ground in front of his home after he was shot. Nelson, 21, remains in critical condition.
Several bullets went through the garage of his neighbor, Bobick said Monday, adding that he heard a total of around a dozen shots in three separate bursts.
“I thought I was crazy, but the girl down the street said she heard 18,” he said.
It remained unclear Monday how many shots Sgt. Jeremy Ryan actually discharged during the three separate times he shot at Nelson. The complaint says that Nelson pointed the gun but makes no mention of him actually firing any shots.
During the weekend, neighbor Brian Dalton said that if all the shots he heard were fired by police that they possibly “should have been more cautious.” The shots woke him, his wife and two children, he said. A 20-year-old college student who had been watching TV in a nearby house said a bullet grazed his wrist, eventually coming to a stop in his bottle of Gatorade
“Our officers don’t wake up in the morning hoping to put [themselves] and others in harm,” police spokesman Howie Padilla said Monday. “They would rather go home not having been put in the situation to fire their duty firearm.”
Nelson, of Minneapolis, was charged in Ramsey County District Court Monday with one count of second-degree assault.
According to the complaint: St. Paul police were investigating a burglary in the 1800 block of Marshall Avenue at 4:10 a.m. when they heard about five gunshots. Ryan got into his squad car and drove through an alley with the lights off.
Ryan saw a vehicle believed to be a maroon Ford Edge on Marshall Avenue near Dewey Street, flashed on his headlights and activated his emergency lights. The vehicle fled, the driver and front-seat passenger apparently surprised by the officer’s presence, the charges said.
Ryan followed the vehicle, which stopped abruptly. Nelson bailed out of the front passenger seat, allegedly carrying a “big handgun” in his right hand. Ryan followed him in his squad, the lights and siren activated, as Nelson fled on foot down an alley.
Nelson moved across the alley, turned and pointed a handgun at Ryan, the charges allege.
“Sergeant Ryan thought Nelson was going to kill him since he was stuck in his squad car,” the complaint said. “Sergeant Ryan brought up his gun, fired at, and hit Nelson. Ryan knew he had shot Nelson because he saw Nelson flinch. Ryan thought, ‘Why isn’t he going down?’ ”
Nelson “ran” away, jumping over a fence and falling, the complaint said. Ryan chased Nelson on foot. Nelson ignored orders to drop the gun and jumped over a second fence, the complaint said.
Nelson allegedly raised the gun again after the second fence, the charges said.
Ryan fired, and Nelson “went down hard,” the complaint said. Nelson got up and staggered away, ignoring orders to show his hands.
“Sergeant Ryan thought Nelson may have been wearing body armor because being shot wasn’t affecting him,” the complaint said.
Ryan took cover by a house and lost sight of Nelson’s hand and gun. Nelson turned and Ryan shot at him a third time, the charges said. Nelson fell in a boulevard and medics were radioed.
Nelson wasn’t wearing body armor, Padilla said.
Nelson’s hands were empty when Ryan approached him, but according to the complaint, a gun was recovered on the ground near a home in the 1700 block of Dayton Avenue that Nelson had run past.
Nelson told police he fled because he thought he had warrants for not paying train fares in Minneapolis. He said he had a cellphone in his hand, not a gun, the complaint said.
Nelson does not have a criminal record in Minnesota. The car he was allegedly riding in was found vacant about five hours later in northeast Minneapolis.
Ryan is a 15-year veteran of the department. He suffered a knee injury during the incident and was placed on a routine three-day leave.
According to personnel records, Ryan was disciplined once during his time in the department for conduct unbecoming a police officer in 2005. He has had more than a dozen commendations including a Medal of Commendation last year from Police Chief Tom Smith.