A hail of gunfire during a St. Paul police chase early Sunday morning left the suspect critically wounded and grazed a college student watching television in a nearby house.
A gun was recovered from a sidewalk between two houses about 40 feet from where the suspect was shot by a police sergeant near the corner of Dayton Avenue and Wheeler Street, neighbors said. Police said the weapon was not the sergeant’s handgun, but said it wasn’t clear Sunday if the suspect had fired a gun.
“The sergeant fired multiple times, striking the suspect, who was taken to Regions Hospital,” said a St. Paul police news release. “Investigators are currently working to piece together what led to the sergeant firing.”
The sergeant, who wasn’t immediately identified, was treated for a knee injury suffered during the foot chase and was put on a routine three-day leave.
Across Dayton Avenue, a bullet smashed through a porch wall, then a living-room wall, burned across the left wrist of a college student and hit his plastic Gatorade bottle. Charlie, a 20-year-old student who displayed a bandaged wrist Sunday afternoon, asked that his last name not be used.
A University of St. Thomas math major, Charlie said he was watching television about 4 a.m. when he heard a loud pop. He felt a burn, saw blood on his wrist and ran upstairs to ask his roommate to call police. Soon police lights and sirens filled the intersection. When Charlie retrieved his Gatorade, it was leaking and he saw a hole in the bottle and a bullet inside it. Police took the bottle and slug as evidence, the student said.
Police said the sergeant was investigating a report of a church burglary when he heard gunshots and tried to stop a suspicious vehicle leaving the area. When the vehicle slowed near Dayton and Wheeler, a passenger got out and ran away. The sergeant got out of his car and chased him. Police recovered the vacant getaway vehicle about five hours later in northeast Minneapolis, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.
Neighbors near Dayton and Wheeler heard more than six shots and pointed out seven bullet holes in the garage and home of the Dalton family. Brian Dalton said the shots awakened him, his wife and two young kids, who started crying.
He said police recovered a handgun from the narrow sidewalk between his house and the Bobick family home on the corner of Wheeler and Dayton. He and Bill Bobick said they saw the young suspect lying in the street in front of Bobick’s house. Dalton said he is awaiting more information, but if all the shots he heard were from police, “I would say possibly they should have been more cautious.”
Bobick said he heard a total of about a dozen shots in three separate bursts. He said the gunfire, which they hadn’t heard before in their neighborhood, frightened his wife, who saw a gun sparking as it was fired along Wheeler Street. He said a squad car was parked in the alley behind his and Dalton’s homes, and he thinks an officer fired from the alley at the suspect as the man ran between the two homes, eventually collapsing on Dayton Avenue.
Bobick said he couldn’t tell for sure, but it sounded like the suspect and officer exchanged shots. If so, he said, the officer was justified in firing because the suspect could have shot someone else or broken into a home and taken a hostage.
Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulus said Sunday night he believes the suspect had a gun but it isn’t yet clear if he fired it.
“Investigators are putting together a puzzle so the public can understand what happened,” Paulus said. “They are piecing together the crime scene to see who did what and how many bullets were fired.”
Paulus said the sergeant’s name and other facts will be released Monday. He said the suspect, still in critical condition Sunday evening, may also be identified Monday.
Jim Adams 612-673-7658