State investigators on Friday named the three Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting of a man who repeatedly stabbed and slashed himself with a knife during a police interview earlier this week.
According to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Sgt. Gene Suker, a 20-year veteran of the department, and Jerome Carey, an officer who has been with the department for one year, fired their service weapons during the encounter at police headquarters Monday. Another officer, eight-year veteran David Martinson, used his Taser to try to subdue 18-year-old Marcus Fischer.
All three officers have been put on routine paid leave pending the outcome of the BCA’s investigation into the incident.
The two officers shot Fischer after he ignored repeated commands to drop a knife he had used to “severely” injure himself and started toward them, according to investigators.
Fischer remained hospitalized and under the watch of sheriff’s deputies Friday afternoon. A scheduled court appearance earlier in the day was moved to next week when Fischer failed to show up “for medical reasons,” a judge told the courtroom.
Fischer had been a suspect in a robbery and shooting in northeast Minneapolis the week before. After being arrested at the Mall of America Monday, he was brought downtown for questioning. At one point, Fischer was left unattended in the interview room when detectives went to fetch him a bottle of water, the BCA said. When they returned, Fischer had produced “a large folding knife,” which he had hidden in his waistband, and was stabbing himself.
After about 10 minutes of not responding to commands to drop the weapon, Martinson fired his Taser at Fischer. When that had no effect on him, Suker and Carey opened fire as he began moving toward the officers, according to the BCA.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many times Fischer was struck. Surveillance and body cameras captured the incident, the state agency said
The BCA declined further comment on Friday, and Minneapolis police officials said they couldn’t discuss the case because of the ongoing investigation.
“I’m confident after review that the officer’s actions are going to be justified,” said Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the city’s rank-and-file officers. “It was clearly the case of someone who wanted to take their own life and officers didn’t want that to happen.” He stood by his earlier comments that the officers acted “heroically.”
“If the officers would’ve taken no action, you would have protests rally and marches,” he said. “We would be under complete, and justifiable, public scrutiny for it.”
He said footage of the incident, which he has seen, will vindicate the officers.
“If we could get a place like U.S. Bank Stadium or the Target Center to sell $10 tickets for admission and play the video, and if people think they can resolve in a better way, then we would give the money to them,” he said. “I would challenge any public venue that has the guts to play this gory scene to sit down with all of my critics and to have them tell me what the cops should’ve done differently.”
Fischer faces charges of first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and possession of a handgun by a prohibited person, stemming a robbery on Dec. 13, in which authorities say he robbed a man of his gun and then shot him at point-blank range in the chest. According to court filings, Fischer admitted to being present during the robbery, but denied shooting the man.
The hospital isn’t letting the Fischer family visit him, saying that it’s acting on orders from the Minneapolis police, his father, Eric Fischer, said at a news conference Friday at City Hall. The family has been unable to get any more information about his condition, and is pushing for both visitation rights and more transparency about the incident. Eric Fischer said he last saw his son Thursday, in a police-supervised hospital visit.
Organizers with Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar said the officers showed a lack of “compassion” in dealing with someone in crisis.
“To make matters worse, instead of helping Marcus when he was under distress, during a crisis, attempting to harm himself, while in their confined and controlled environment, instead of talking with him, calming him down, they used guns,” the police reform group said in a statement, which also called for release of video and audio from the shooting.
At its conclusion, the BCA’s case will be turned over to the Washington County prosecutors because of a conflict of interest for the Hennepin County attorney’s office, which charged Fischer in the robbery case.
Suker, a decorated officer, was involved in a previous police shooting. He was one of five city cops who in 2000 shot and killed a suspected pedophile, who hit two officers with his car during a pursuit. A grand jury later cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
In 2003, Suker was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor, given to officers for “an act of bravery that demonstrates obvious self-sacrifice in the face of death or serious physical injury.” Suker, who has been named in several lawsuits, accumulated four citizen complaints against him between 2000 and 2010, all of which were closed without discipline.
Neither Carey nor Martinson has been the subject of citizen complaints, according to city records.