Attorneys for the 19-year-old man accused of killing a popular high school teacher and bar owner in rural Washington County said Tuesday they are exploring whether to argue that he had been insane when he fired the fatal shot.
Ryan Pacyga, one of Bailey Jordan Garcia's attorneys, said at a Tuesday news conference at the Hennepin County Government Center that he plans to ask a judge to order his client to undergo a mental health evaluation "looking at his past psychiatric and psychological evaluation," laying the foundation for a temporary insanity defense.
"The dynamics are so much more amplified when you have a situation like this," Pacyga said later. "Our challenge is how do we balance a situation where you've got an innocent victim, a situation where somebody's battling a cognitive and emotional disease, where we as a criminal justice system still have a lot of work to do in recognizing."
After reviewing Garcia's sealed medical history, Pacyga said he would consult mental health experts before deciding how to proceed.
Garcia, his lawyer said, had been previously diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but it was unclear whether he had been taking his medication at the time of the shooting.
Garcia is accused of shooting David Frigaard, 46, a popular Park High School teacher who owned a local bar, near the intersection of Stillwater Road and Mahtomedi Avenue about 3:30 a.m. Saturday as Frigaard's pickup truck was stopped at a stop sign.
Authorities say that Garcia, of Pine Springs, fired a high-powered rifle at the truck, with a single 30.06-caliber bullet piercing Frigaard's chest.
"That's the devil in this case. He's not a bad kid," Pacyga said. "He's not a thug out there, shooting people over unsettled drug debts."
Witnesses placed Garcia at Frigaard's bar in Willernie earlier that night, an assertion that Pacyga vehemently denied. The two men had never met each other, he said.
Garcia first told police that he was shooting at deer and a wolf, before changing his story to say he had fled the scene after being spooked by a gunshot.
Pacyga said it was unclear whether Washington County authorities had made a decision on whether to impanel a grand jury to bring further charges. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.
"It's a head-scratcher for both sides of this case," Pacyga said.
Garcia is being held in Washington County jail in lieu of $2 million bail.