Saying he had no choice but to shoot an armed and suicidal man, Washington County Deputy Brian Krook testified in his defense Tuesday in his manslaughter trial for the 2018 death of Benjamin Evans.
Krook, who shot Evans without warning in two volleys of gunfire, said he felt horrible but that Evans’ behavior ultimately caused him to fire. “I shot until the threat was gone,” he said, under questioning from his attorney, Kevin Short.
Krook was indicted by a grand jury on second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of Evans, 23, a Lake Elmo firefighter and EMT.
The two men faced each other on a public street in Lake Elmo early on April 12, 2018, after Krook and several other deputies responded to a call about a suicidal man.
Evans was upset about an ex-girlfriend and had written suicide notes to his parents and to the first responders he imagined coming to his aid. He spent nearly 40 minutes kneeling in a crosswalk and refusing commands to drop his handgun before Krook fired the shots that killed him.
Krook, 32, who had patrolled the Lake Elmo area for about five years before the shooting, said he felt threatened because even though Evans had his handgun pointed at his own head, he kept turning his head and torso as he looked up and down the street. As Evans turned, the gun barrel was pointed not only at his head but also at the deputies beyond.
Krook said it was even more unnerving that Evans, as a first responder, knew the tactics being used that night — something that became apparent as negotiations wore on and Evans began complimenting the deputies for their efforts to de-escalate the situation.
Krook said it wasn’t reassuring to him when Evans said he didn’t want to hurt the deputies. Why is he thinking that, Krook asked in court, adding that Evans could have intended to give a false sense of security before attacking.
Prosecutors have asked why Krook didn’t give a warning or use the specialized “Less Lethal” shotgun, which uses beanbag rounds to stun and incapacitate, though it sometimes kills. Krook said the Less Lethal weapon wasn’t appropriate for handling someone with a handgun. He said it might have escalated things and resulted in Evans shooting himself or others.
Krook said Evans turned back and forth “more and more” until, nearly 40 minutes into the negotiations, he fired.
Krook’s defense has argued that Evans wanted to commit suicide by confronting law enforcement and forcing someone to shoot him.
Earlier Tuesday, an expert witness for the prosecution said Krook didn’t have sufficient reason to fatally shoot an armed and suicidal man. Crystal Police Lt. Derrick Hacker said Krook should have taken cover while a fellow deputy negotiated with Evans.
“A reasonable officer would have taken cover,” said Hacker, a use-of-force expert who testified in the trial of Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
Krook is the third Minnesota law enforcement officer to be charged in connection with a shooting death while on duty. Former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted; Noor was convicted.
The trial, taking place in Washington County District Court, was recessed for the day by Judge Mary Yunker. Krook’s testimony was expected to continue Wednesday.