The family of a suicidal man who was killed during a standoff in 2018 with the Washington County Sheriff's Office is suing the deputy who fired the fatal shot and then was acquitted of manslaughter by a state jury.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and names as defendants Deputy Brian Krook, along with two fellow deputies and a sheriff's sergeant on the scene, Sheriff Dan Starry and the Sheriff's Office.
It was Krook's gunfire in a Lake Elmo residential intersection on April 12, 2018, that struck 23-year-old Benjamin Evans, who was holding a handgun to his head for much of the 45-minute stalemate.
William Evans, Benjamin's father and acting as trustee for the family, specifies in the suit no specific dollar amount in damages being sought for what the filing claims was "willful, reckless and intentional … assault, battery, unauthorized use of force, negligence and wrongful death." Instead, Evans and family are asking for a jury to determine compensatory and punitive damages should the case go to trial.
An attorney for the defendants, Joe Flynn, said Tuesday that Evans' gun did "point in the direction" of the deputies during the encounter. Also, Evans could have moved "the gun away from his head in a fraction of a second and fire upon the officers before they even had the opportunity to respond. … Mr. Evans put the lives of area citizens, other law enforcement officers, and Deputy Krook at risk."
In March 2020, jurors acquitted Krook of second-degree manslaughter, siding with the defense's version of the deputy as a hero who was "stone-cold innocent" when Krook confronted and then shot Evans, a Lake Elmo firefighter who was upset about an ex-girlfriend.
The trial hinged on Krook's perception of danger: Was he justified in shooting a man who was kneeling in a public street while pointing a handgun at his temple and negotiating with another deputy? The gun pointed toward the deputies as Evans turned his head and torso from side to side. Krook, in the minutes before firing, noted the movements to another deputy and expressed being uncomfortable with Evans' motions.
Krook's acquittal immediately freed him to return to duty. Flynn said that Krook is still with the Sheriff's Office as are the other defendants, Sgt. Michelle Folendorf, and deputies Joshua Ramirez and Michael Ramos.
The lawsuit makes several arguments that shooting Evans was unjustified. Among them:
• Evans "never made a move toward the officers [and] never pointed his gun at the officers."
• Krook never warned Evans to stop moving his head or looking around before shooting him "multiple times and without warning."
• Krook chose to use his service weapon and not a less-lethal shotgun nearby.
• The deputy's commanders were "unresponsive" throughout the standoff, despite several calls being made to them for assistance.
• Krook failed to use proper "intervention techniques in an encounter with an emotionally disturbed individual and used unreasonable force."
• No trained SWAT team or crisis negotiator was deployed.
Krook's case is one of four in recent history in which a Minnesota law enforcement officer faced charges for an on-duty death. The most recent, and still pending, is the murder case against four fired Minneapolis officers in connection with the death in May of George Floyd while in police custody.
In the other cases, then-Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of murder for shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond behind her home in July 2017, and then-St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter for shooting Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482