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Deputy receives top honor in Gilbert shooting

2017 News Tribune file --- Law enforcement vehicles block streets in Gilbert after an officer-involved shooting last December. St. Louis County sheriff's deputy Derrick Deutsch, who was shot by an armed fugitive and returned fire, fatally wounding the man, was recently recognized for his actions with the 2018 Minnesota Police Officer of the Year Award.

It started as a fairly routine call for St. Louis County sheriff's deputy Derrick Duetsch on Dec. 22.

A Gilbert police officer had spotted a woman with an outstanding arrest warrant, and Deutsch was in the area. He offered his assistance in taking her into custody.

But the events that transpired in the 44 seconds after the deputy arrived on scene were anything but routine.

Deutsch encountered a man running from a residence and started pursuing him on foot. He saw the man produce a gun, and, trying to take cover, slipped in the snowy, icy conditions. Almost simultaneously, Deutsch and the suspect fired a series of shots at one another.

The deputy was struck once, suffering a minor injury. But his assailant was fatally wounded.

"His actions were nothing short of heroic," said Lt. Nate Skelton, a supervisor in the Virginia sheriff's office. "I can't say enough about him. Nobody could do it any better."

For his actions, Deutsch was presented last weekend with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association's 2018 Police Officer of the Year Award.

The deputy, for his part, was appreciate of the recognition but clearly a little uncomfortable with all the attention that goes along with it.

"It's a lot to take in," he said. "I guess my thoughts about it are that I was just out doing my job just like thousands of other officers in the state are doing day in and day out, so for them to pick me was pretty amazing."

Deutsch, 26, had only been with the sheriff's office for about a year when the incident unfolded. He had no idea at the time that the man, 40-year-old Jeffrey John Golnick, was a wanted fugitive who had served a prison sentence for firing shots at Virginia police officers during a standoff a decade earlier.

Deutsch and Gilbert officer Joseph Bradach were both in uniform when they went to that residence at 112 W. Michigan Ave. around 1:15 p.m. the Friday before Christmas.

According to investigative reports, Golnick was about 20 feet in front of Deutsch when he took off running. Deutsch told Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators that he slipped and fell in the falling snow just as he saw Golnick reach into his waistband.

Quickly realizing the man had a gun, Deutsch yelled at Golnick to show him his hands, but the suspect instead raised the weapon and pointed it in the deputy's direction.

Deutsch and Golnick each fired three shots in unison. The deputy, still down on the ground, was struck once in the buttocks. Golnick was knocked down.

Bradach, who was trailing behind, arrived and reported seeing Golnick lying on his back but still holding the handgun. He described the suspect as trying to lean up while again raising the gun in their direction.

Bradach and Deutsch, who was able to get back on his feet, both gave verbal commands for Golnick to drop the weapon. When he did not comply, both officers fired their weapons. The gun was knocked out of Golnick's hand, and he fell to the ground, where he was later pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin concluded that the officers' actions were justified, writing in a January report that they "probably saved not only their own lives, but possibly also the lives of other citizens."

Skelton, the operations lieutenant for the Virginia sheriff's office, was on duty that day. He heard Deutsch report the shooting over the radio and raced to the scene.

"That's something I don't want to relive," Skelton said. "It's days before Christmas and I hear he's been hit. I get there 10 minutes later and he's standing there, covering the house. He's doing everything he's been taught. There's probably not a lot of people who can do that in that situation. He still had the frame of mind and self-awareness to keep doing his job."

Asked how he could keep his cool in a fast-developing, life-threatening situation, Deutsch credited his training.

"It definitely happened quickly, and unfortunately it can happen any place at any time," he said. "You can only prepare for it so much, and luckily it turned out the way it did."

Six months later, Deutsch said the incident still comes up. But physically and mentally, he's feeling well. And the award from his peers serves as a nice reassurance, he said.

"The suspect made his decision" and Deutsch had to react, he said. "I was protecting myself, protecting my partners and protecting the community. ... Do I have any regrets about how I handled it? No, I don't. I don't want that to sound like it's a bad thing. The guy pulled a gun on me and I had to do what I did."

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, founded in 1922, is the largest association representing rank-and-file officers in Minnesota. Deutsch is the first Northland officer to take the top honor since Duluth police Sgt. Brad Wick in 2012.

"Rare incidents like these demonstrate the true character of an officer," said MPPOA executive director Dave Metusalem. "Without warning, Deputy Deutsch had to rise to the challenge ... His actions were courageous, his judgement was sound and I am so grateful that he is a member of Minnesota's law enforcement community."