The death of a Minneapolis man who famously shot and wounded two police officers in 1979 after mistaking them for burglars is being investigated as a homicide after initially having been thought to be an accident.
Riley B. Housley III died Thursday at a Minneapolis hospital of blunt force injuries, and on Friday the Hennepin County medical examiner ruled the manner of death homicide.
Firefighters and paramedics found Housley suffering from head injuries in his northeast Minneapolis apartment on Jan. 21, police said. Someone had called 911 to report that Housley had been injured in an accident at the apartment.
But when doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center examined his injuries, which included “penetrating blunt force injuries,” they concluded that they were consistent with assault, authorities said. He died eight days later at the hospital.
For years, Housley ran two companies out of his apartment in the 200 block of Lowry Avenue NE., according to court filings: Digital Consulting Services Inc., a computer sales and service company he started in 1994, and Ammoclip.com, a website that sold ammunition magazines.
In 1979, Housley became a household name in the Twin Cities when he shot and wounded two undercover police officers, David Mack and Robert Skomra, during what he said he thought was a break-in at his south Minneapolis home. The officers were trying to serve a search warrant on him.
Housley was convicted of first-degree aggravated assault in a 1980 trial.
Both officers survived, but Mack was gravely injured, paralyzed and left unable to speak, and for a time was even in an apparent vegetative state. When he died in 1986, doctors determined that his death was caused by complications from the wounds he suffered when Housley shot him.
Before his death, Mack spelled out a message on an alphabet board saying that “when [Housley] dies he will have to answer to God.”
Housley’s conviction for shooting Mack was later overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that prosecutors hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Housley was not acting in self-defense.
Housley made the news again in 1991 when a St. Louis Park police officer injured when he tried to arrest him five years earlier was awarded $137,000 in damages by a Hennepin County jury, according to Star Tribune stories from that time.
The jury awarded Ward Dohman $100,000 for pain and suffering, and the remainder for loss of wages, diminished earning capacity, medical expenses and punitive damages.
In April 1986, Dohman, working in civilian clothing with another officer, saw Housley and another man in a car outside a St. Louis Park restaurant. When they tried to arrest the men for suspected drug activity, Housley sped out of the parking lot, running over Dohman’s foot and striking him with his car. Housley was arrested by the other officer after a chase of nearly a mile.
Dohman, who suffered foot, hip and shoulder injuries, was out of work for six weeks. Housley was convicted of alcohol, traffic and drug charges. In both the criminal and civil trials, Housley contended he did not know Dohman was a police officer.
Three homicide detectives have been assigned to investigate Housley’s death, according to police.
Police are encouraging anyone with information about the attack on Housley to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or the Minneapolis Police Department’s tip line at 612-692-8477. Tips can also be sent anonymously via text to 847411. Enter MPD, a space, and then the information.