Stillwater, MN – A Minnesota jury on Thursday acquitted a Washington County sheriff’s deputy who was charged in the death of a man who was determined to commit suicide-by-cop.
The incident occurred when law enforcement officers responded to a call about a suicidal arm man in Lake Elmo on April 12, 2018, ABC News reported.
When Washington County sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they found 23-year-old Benjamin Evans kneeling in the middle of an intersection and holding a gun to his own head.
Records showed that Evans had recently moved from St. Louis to Minnesota to be near his girlfriend, ABC News reported.
But then he lost his job as an emergency medical technician and probationary firefighter and his girlfriend broke up with him.
On April 11, 2018, Evans tried to pull things back together and proposed to his girlfriend, ABC News reported.
Witnesses testified that Evans couldn’t handle it when his marriage proposal was declined.
So he put on his dress firefighter uniform and wrote two suicide notes.
Witnesses said that after he was done getting ready, Evans left his house with a gun, ABC News reported.
Dashcam video and audio from bodycams that was played in court showed Evans kneeling in the street has he held a gun to his head with his right hand.
A 40-minute standoff ensued, during which Evans twisted and turned causing the gun’s trajectory to sweep across the deputies as they pleaded with the suicidal man to drop his weapon, ABC News reported.
The video played in court showed Washington County Deputy Joshua Ramirez giving commands for Evans to drop his gun, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Evans finally did eject the magazine from his weapon and throw the deputy his cell phone, but he refused to put down the gun that still had a round in the chamber.
He told deputies that he didn’t want to hurt them and asked to talk to his girlfriend, but throughout the standoff he continued twisting and turning to look down the street behind him, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“[Expletive], he does that again,” Washington County Sheriff’s Brian Krook warned in the video, in reference to the suspect twisting in such a way that his weapon was pointed at deputies.
“Ramirez, I’m getting uncomfortable with him turning his head, just so you know,” Deputy Krook said a moment later, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Deputy Ramirez didn’t answer Deputy Krook and instead continued to negotiate with Evans.
A moment later, Deputy Krook fired four rounds at the suspect, ABC News reported.
Evans slumped to the side but he did not let go of his gun, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Several officers rushed over to the fallen man and ordered him to drop the gun, but Evans appeared to ignore their commands.
“I’m kicking it,” Deputy Krook announced in the video.
That’s when Evans lowered his arm, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Prosecutors said Deputy Krook, who was two-to-three feet away, took steps back and fired his weapon at Evans three more times.
The suspect was hit a total of four times, twice in the chest, once in the side, and once in the leg, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Deputy Krook was the only law enforcement officer who opened fire.
He testified that he fired his weapon the second time around because when Evans moved his arm, he pointed his gun at the deputies, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Deputy Krook was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the incident.
State Prosecutor Thomas B. Hatch argued that the deputy had been negligent by not warning Evans that he was about to use deadly force, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Police officers are not required to issue warnings when there is an immediate threat.
But defense attorneys held that Deputy Krook had been right to fear for his life and argued that the deputy would have been justified in shooting Evans earlier in the standoff than he did.
Deputy Krook testified that he felt terrible about having killed Evans but that he felt he had no choice, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The jury agreed with the defense, and after about seven hours of deliberation, they found Deputy Krook not guilty on March 19, the ABC News reported.
The sheriff’s department said that Deputy Krook, who had been on administrative leave since he was indicted, “is back to full duty and will return when he is ready.”