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Duluth police officer shoots armed man in domestic incident

Investigators from the Duluth Police Department and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confer outside of 3202 Piedmont Ave. on Monday morning. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
Police-line tape surrounds a home at 3202 Piedmont Ave. on Monday, the site where police shot a 34-year-old man while responding to a domestic disturbance. (Steve Kuchera / / 3
A Duluth Police Department investigator ducks under the police tape surrounding 3202 Piedmont Ave. on Monday morning. (Steve Kuchera / / 3

A 34-year-old man was in critical condition after police said he was shot by an officer early Monday when he brandished a knife and barricaded himself in a room during a domestic disturbance at a Piedmont Heights home.

The man, who apparently had cut himself, was bleeding out and refused to obey officers’ commands to drop the weapon before he was shot shortly after

4 a.m. in the basement of a residence at 3202 Piedmont Ave., Duluth police said.

The officer who fired his weapon is a seven-year veteran of the force and has been put on paid administrative leave, which is standard following the discharge of a weapon, as Duluth police and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension continue to investigate the incident.

Police planned to hold a news conference today to release more information, including the names of the officer and the suspect.

According to a police account of the incident:

Officers were called to the residence on the report of a domestic disturbance and arrived at 3:58 a.m. While en route to the residence, police learned that a female resident’s husband had cut himself with a knife and was bleeding.

Officers arrived and were speaking with the woman when the husband ran past them, carrying an unknown object in his hand, and into the basement.

Officers went downstairs and found the man locked in a room. Blood was visible on the floor underneath the door. The man said he wanted to die and had a half-hour to live before bleeding out. He refused to come out.

Officers eventually forced the door open and a canine was deployed. The man refused to drop the knife he was holding, and one officer fired his weapon.

The man was struck by gunfire at 4:14 a.m., and officers administered first aid until paramedics arrived. The man was transported to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, and was listed in “critical but stable” condition.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which typically investigates officer-involved shootings, was on scene by late morning.

Authorities did not identify the injured man, but neighbors said the house belonged to Joseph and Amy Zontelli. Joseph Zontelli is 34 years old, according to public records.

Early-rising neighbors woke at 5 a.m., to a host of squad cars and crime scene tape surrounding the property at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and Trudeau Road.

The split-entry home with an attached garage belonged to the Zontellis, who have two children, one neighbor said.

“In all the years I’ve been here, we’ve never had these problems, and now they’re coming up,” said William Lee, 87, who lives on Trudeau Road. “I can’t even think of anybody (on this street) ever divorcing.”

Monday’s incident was the fifth officer-involved shooting for the Duluth Police Department in just more than four years:

  • On June 11, 2013, Zachary Premo was shot by officers Matthew Hendrickson and Jacob Peterson in the backyard of his parents’ home after police said he led the officers on a car chase and refused to drop a small, semi-automatic handgun.
  • On Aug. 28, 2011, Sgt. Brad Wick fatally shot robbery suspect Brian Butala at a Gary-New Duluth residence. Butala had entered a house during a police chase, shooting and wounding the resident.
  • On March 21, 2011, officer Angela Robertson shot Samson Waddell once, critically wounding him, as he tried to disarm her partner. The shooting happened when police responded to a report of a fire and assault at a group home at 315 S. 70th Ave. W. 
  • On Aug. 5, 2010, officer Jeffrey Keast fatally shot 17-year-old Joseph “Joey‘’ Carl after the teenager started breaking windows and other items in his house with a baseball bat. When Keast pulled his squad up to Carl’s street, the teenager popped out from behind a parked vehicle and immediately attacked the squad with a baseball bat.

In all four of those cases, prosecutors determined that the officers’ actions were justified. Before that string of incidents, Duluth police had not been involved in an officer-involved shooting since 2001.