After a Ramsey County grand jury cleared two St. Paul police officers Wednesday in last year’s fatal shooting of Philip Quinn, authorities took an unprecedented step in hopes of strengthening public trust — they released more than 200 of pages of police reports, several 911 transcripts and a video of the shooting.
The move comes at a time of heightened tension about police use of force, and is the latest in a wave of changes by metro authorities to stem a tide of frustration that has mobilized activists across the nation.
“Things are changing, and we realize that the public is asking for more information,” Police Chief Thomas Smith said at a Thursday news conference. “Whether it’s good information or bad information, it’s very important that we get this out, and that’s why this is so unique — it is different — and I expect that these are things that we’re going to be doing in the future so that the public and [media] can get, especially, the facts.”
Evidence in officer-involved shootings becomes accessible to anyone when a grand jury returns a “no bill,” or decides that officers should not be criminally charged for their actions. Quinn’s death was among a number of officer-involved shootings in the metro last year that sparked activism.
The Hennepin County attorney’s office is currently reviewing evidence in Minneapolis police’s fatal shooting of Jamar Clark last year.
Authorities met privately Thursday with Quinn’s fiancée, Darleen Tareeq, his mother and his brother to discuss the grand jury decision and show the video. Only Tareeq chose to view the video. She remains unconvinced that deadly force was warranted that day. “I think a lot of it was they were mad he got away the first time, and they didn’t want to chase him again,” said Tareeq, who has a daughter with Quinn. He also helped raise her other two children.
Tareeq initially called police about 1:30 p.m. last Sept. 24 when she arrived home in the 600 block of Canton Street and saw that Quinn, 30, had stabbed himself several times with a sharp object and locked himself in the garage.
Quinn fled when police arrived, and later returned home. He called his mother, who called 911 about 5:35 p.m. and said her son was schizophrenic and suicidal and hadn’t taken his medication.
Police said Thursday that officer Rich McGuire had no choice but to shoot when Quinn ran at McGuire with a screwdriver in his raised arm, backing McGuire into a fence.
Video of the shooting, taken from Officer Joe LaBathe’s squad car, shows Quinn, who was initially in a garage, running out from the backyard.
“Put it down!” McGuire shouts several times as he retreats backward.
Quinn turns and runs at McGuire, raises his arm and McGuire shoots four times about 6 p.m., striking Quinn twice and two of Tareeq’s vehicles nearby.
Quinn can be seen collapsing immediately.
A seven-page memo about the case released by the Ramsey County attorney’s office said that Quinn was struck in the right forearm, consistent with it being raised at the time, and in the right abdomen above his hip. The wound to the abdomen struck his iliac vein and caused him to bleed to death “very quickly,” according to the memo, which also noted that he had methamphetamine in his system.
“[McGuire] did everything he was trained to do, and still had no other choice in this situation,” Smith said. There was no time to use nonlethal force, or wait for a K-9 officer that had been called to the scene, the chief said.
Tareeq was critical of the police’s take on the shooting. She was home at the time, and said McGuire’s gun was drawn before Quinn exited the garage.
Video from LaBathe’s car shows that he drew his gun shortly after getting out of the squad car.
Tareeq said she pleaded with McGuire not to shoot Quinn.
“I was surprised they had their guns out like that,” she said.
Assistant Chief Bill Martinez said Thursday that officers have discretion to draw their guns based on a call’s circumstances.
In Quinn’s case, Martinez said, he was reportedly armed and had struggled with a stranger as he attempted to break into an apartment after he fled the first police call.
Tareeq, who is a nurse, said Quinn wasn’t trying to harm others; he was trying to find a place to hide. “He was psychotic, paranoid and trying to hide from [police],” she said. “When someone’s in psychosis, they don’t know what’s going on.”
The one thing police and Tareeq could agree on was that Quinn, and others like him, deserved better access to mental health care.
Quinn was discharged from St. Joseph’s hospital about a week before the shooting.
Tareeq said he spent four nights in the hospital’s holding area until a bed opened up in the mental health unit. He was discharged after two days in the unit even though he expressed a desire to hurt himself, Tareeq said.
“So many people dropped the ball,” she said.
Zoe Peterson, a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune, contributed to this report.