DULUTH – The use of deadly force by law enforcement to end a Lincoln Park standoff that lasted nearly 20 hours in February was justified, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said Thursday.
Duluth resident David J. W. Conwell, 37, was shot and killed in the incident that began the night of Feb. 25.
Duluth police and St. Louis County deputies "were placed in a situation which necessitated the use of deadly force in the course of their work," Rubin said in a news release. "Their actions taken in self-defense of themselves and each other eventually resulted in the death" of Conwell from multiple gunshot wounds, and are found to be "reasonable, justified and authorized" under Minnesota statute.
In the early stages of the standoff, Conwell shot and killed K-9 officer Luna and fired a gun three more times, despite demands for him to show his hands, drop his weapon and surrender, a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation (BCA) found.
Initial shots from Duluth police did not strike Conwell, according to the BCA. The standoff ended when Conwell was shot and killed by Sgts. Ben Fye and Miles Bruggman of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.
Duluth police responded to the scene initially on a report of suspected domestic abuse. Officers could not determine whether an assault took place but did learn that Conwell was inside and had warrants for his arrest.
They entered the apartment and found him in a closet. As K-9 Luna went toward Conwell, he fired a shotgun at the officers and fatally wounded the dog.
Early the next afternoon, the county sheriff's emergency response team took over and determined Conwell was in a second-floor closet. They removed a section of its exterior wall, which Conwell jumped through onto the porch, pointing his gun at the deputies.
The two deputies fired their rifles, and two deputies fired less lethal rounds.
Rubin said "significant weight is afforded to officers on the scene facing a life-threatening situation that requires split-second determinations and decisions in a fast-moving environment."
Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450