Ruling: Police justified in shooting Iron Range manBabbitt police Officer Jonathan Shenett first tried to stop the threatening behavior of Derek Nathan Klingfus by discharging his Taser.
A Babbitt police officer was justified in using deadly force to shoot a man who had held a knife to a toddler’s throat, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said Wednesday.
Babbitt police Officer Jonathan Shenett first tried to stop the threatening behavior of Derek Nathan Klingfus by discharging his Taser, causing Klingfus to loosen his grip on the young girl he was carrying near his residence on Jan. 24. But the non-lethal weapon didn’t disable Klingfus and he advanced on Shenett brandishing the knife.
Shenett told investigators he was afraid for the child’s safety, believing that Klingfus intended to “slice her throat.” The officer then shot Klingfus one time, causing him to fall to the ground, ending the threat to both his and the girl’s safety, Rubin said.
The girl suffered a serious knife wound to the torso.
Rubin said Shenett’s actions were reasonable and lawful under the circumstances.
“Officer Shenett demonstrated professionalism and concern for the safety and well-being of the 3-year-old child,” Rubin wrote in a three-page report of the incident presented to St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman. “He tried to control the situation with alternatives to deadly force, but in the end made a tough, admirable judgment call in a very dangerous situation.”
Under Minnesota law, the use of deadly force by a peace officer is justified when necessary to protect the officer or another from great bodily harm or to effect the capture or prevent the escape of a person who is believed to have used deadly force or is a threat to cause great bodily harm.
In reaching the decision that the use of deadly force was justified, Rubin said he and Vern Swanum, a prosecutor with more than 30 years’ experience, reviewed the investigative reports prepared by the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as well as 911 recordings of calls made during the incident and witness interviews.
Klingfus received immediate medical attention and survived the shooting. A relative of the 3-year-old girl said that Klingfus underwent surgery to remove a bullet from his spine. He is not in custody and no charges have been filed against him. Rubin said the investigation into possible charges is ongoing. Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Gordon Coldagelli said earlier this month that his office is waiting for toxicology test results to be completed on Klingfus.
According to Rubin’s report:
Residents of the Ash Boulevard neighborhood in Babbitt became concerned with what they considered unusual behavior exhibited by a man later identified as Klingfus, who had been staying at 53 Ash Boulevard. Klingfus reportedly was yelling at cars driving by and confronting passers-by with nonsensical statements and accusations.
Shortly after 5 p.m., one of the neighbors was concerned about the 3-year-old living at the residence and called 911. While on the phone, the neighbor saw Klingfus carrying the child and appearing to be swinging her around. He returned the child to the home, but came out moments later holding what appeared to be a puppy or small dog by the scruff of the neck and swinging the animal around.
Officer Shenett arrived on the scene and approached the house. Klingfus came out with a knife. The officer told Klingfus to drop the weapon. He dropped it, but quickly picked it up and retreated into the house.
Klingfus came out of the house moments later holding the girl around her head and shoulder area with a knife at the girl’s throat. Shenett took the actions that Rubin deemed were justified to save lives.
Babbitt Police Chief Chad Loewen said his office also completed a review of Shenett’s actions and said that the officer met all of the department’s requirements and responsibilities in handling the incident and would have been remiss in his duties if he had not reacted to the threats as he did.