ST. CLOUD – Brian G. Fitch Sr. was convicted late Monday for the murder of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, a verdict that condemns him to life in prison without parole.
A Stearns County jury of seven men and five women also convicted Fitch of attempted first-degree murder for shooting at three St. Paul police officers who captured him after a shootout.
Patrick was shot last July 30 during a routine traffic stop on a busy West St. Paul street.
Fitch, who held a hand to his face as the verdicts were read, unleashed a string of profanities at Dakota County District Court Judge Mary Theisen as she began to thank the jury.
“You threw this whole case from the beginning!” he yelled at her. “Everything that came up, you overruled every single one of them.”
Applause broke out as Fitch was led from the courtroom, although his profanities continued.
Fitch, 40 years old and a career criminal, did not take the stand during his two-week trial.
His sentencing will be held Wednesday in Dakota County District Court. His trial was held in St. Cloud due to pretrial publicity.
After the verdicts, Patrick’s widow, Michelle, said “God bless Fitch.” Speaking slowly and between sobs, she continued: “I hope he can come to a realization of what he has done. He has taken so much from us. He didn’t need to. I just want to bless him and hope that he realizes what he has done. Amen to him.”
Patrick, 47, was married and a father of two. He was the longest-serving member of the Mendota Heights force and its only officer ever to be killed in the line of duty. Thousands of people, including 4,000 members of law enforcement, attended his funeral in August.
His half-brother, Mike Brue, said the family has had experienced a “mournful climb” since Patrick’s death, a climb that “made some headway today.
“We have verdicts,” he said, reading from a statement. “And first and foremost, Brian George Fitch Sr. essentially was condemned to an abyss of his own making. By committing an act of selfishness, a repulsive, vile act, the jury assured us and he assured himself that the very fate he sought to elude, a return to prison, occurred. And now he’ll spend his life in that abyss.”
The state called 55 witnesses and used 136 pieces of evidence to present its case. The defense called no witnesses. Fitch’s lawyers had jurors listen to an audiotape of the arrest, trying to emphasize how quickly the standoff ended.
The jury got the case around noon Monday. Hours later they asked to see the gun prosecutors said killed Patrick that was found with Fitch. They reached a verdict around 9:20 p.m., after taking a late dinner break.
In his closing arguments prosecutor Phillip Prokopowicz, standing at a lectern facing the jury, said “the time has come” for justice.
He acknowledged the weakest point in the state’s case: No one saw Fitch at the scene of Patrick’s shooting, and witnesses to the crime gave conflicting testimony about who was driving the Pontiac Grand Am that Patrick had pulled over.
But there were other facts, Prokopowicz said, that the jury should use to convict Fitch: Fitch owned the Grand Am; the site of the shooting was on a route that Fitch was likely taking that morning; and the gun that firearms analysis said was used in the shooting was found with Fitch later that day.
Fitch’s ex-girlfriend said he threatened to kill a police officer if he was pulled over. And people who saw Fitch after the shooting said he tried to hide the Grand Am seen in police videos and wanted to flee the state. He threatened to kill a man’s family if that man told anyone where Fitch had gone, according to court testimony.
The jury also found Fitch guilty of three counts of second-degree assault for shooting at three St. Paul police officers, and one count each of illegally possessing a firearm and intentional discharge of a firearm.
“We’re grateful today for justice,” said Dakota County attorney James Backstrom. “This was a cold blooded murder, it was committed without remorse and it horrified all of us.”