No charges will be filed against a Stillwater police officer who fatally shot a suicidal 22-year-old man in November, the Washington County Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Keaton Larson was shot and killed by officer Hunter Julien after he charged officers with a knife at Larson’s family home, authorities say.
In a letter to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Fred Fink, an investigator for the County Attorney’s Office, said that after reviewing all the evidence, including squad and body camera videos, the office found that deadly force was justified “to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm.”
“After careful review ... this office is declining to issue any criminal charges stemming from this incident,” Fink wrote.
The encounter occurred about 1 a.m. Nov. 21 at a home in the 1200 block of S. 4th Street in Stillwater. Julien shot Larson when he lunged at officers with a knife, while three other officers fired Tasers. Larson died after being taken to Lakeview Hospital.
According to the County Attorney’s Office, Larson was standing inside the front door when officers arrived, holding a large kitchen knife that he had used to slash his own neck. The officers “issued commands for Larson to drop the knife,” Fink wrote. “He did not. Larson came outside still holding the knife. He was now on the steps leading to the sidewalk in front of the residence. Larson told officers he wanted to die.”
Julien tried to de-escalate the situation, but Larson kept advancing, Fink wrote. “Officers told him not to do this and to drop the knife,” he wrote. “Larson threw something from his right hand into the bushes and switched the knife from the left to the right hand. The item thrown away was later found and determined to be a razor blade from a utility knife.”
Julien kept talking to Larson, asking him if he wanted to speak to his brother, who also lived in the house. Larson declined, then charged Julien. Three other officers discharged Tasers at Larson as he ran toward Julien, “to no avail,” Fink wrote. Julien “tried to distance himself from Larson and was running backward” and fell onto his back, Fink wrote. He rose to a seated position on the ground as Larson charged him, firing from a distance of 10 feet. Afterward, investigators said, Julien asked, “Why did he make me do that to him?”
After the shooting, BCA agents found that Larson had just posted on Facebook his desire to die. He also had done recent internet searches on how to sever an artery.
“While the death of an individual by deadly force is never to be taken lightly, there is no question that [Julien’s] actions ... were wholly justified,” Fink wrote.
Larson, a 2015 graduate of Stillwater Area High School, worked at Fleet Farm in Oakdale and at Culver’s and McDonald’s in Stillwater, according to his obituary.
He loved Pokémon, music and math and wanted to become an elementary school teacher, his family said, adding that he was “our dearest and loving Keaton, so gentle and kind.”