A Duluth police officer was justified in returning fire on a man who wounded a fellow officer and killed a police dog in January, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin announced Wednesday.
Officer Dale Marcus, a 20-year veteran, fired a single round in response to seven shots from 27-year-old domestic-assault suspect Taylor Joseph Turek, Rubin said in a report. Marcus’ shot did not strike Turek, who was determined to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
K-9 Haas, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, was killed after he was struck in the chest by two bullets. His handler, officer Aaron Haller, was struck in the Kevlar vest protecting his midsection.
“This is a tragic situation with the only good thing coming out of it being the fact that Officer Haller’s life was probably saved by his bulletproof vest,” Rubin wrote in a three-page memorandum.
The incident was investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and turned over to Rubin for legal review last month.
According to his report:
Officers responded to Turek’s residence, 1021 W. Skyline Parkway, after receiving a 911 call from his girlfriend on the night of Jan. 13. The woman, who had been with him for approximately eight years, “was being violently assaulted by Turek, threatened with a knife and was extremely fearful of him.”
Responding officers found the victim on a patio, trying to close the door as Turek attempted to force it open. The officers tried to engage with the suspect, but he quickly retreated inside and locked himself inside the basement room.
Officers went downstairs and heard what they believed to be Turek racking the slide of a handgun. He then briefly opened the door and told officers he had a 9 mm handgun. The officers observed a cellphone in one hand but could not clearly see his other hand before he closed the door again.
Over the next hour, police unsuccessfully negotiated with Turek to unlock the door and surrender. Haller, having heard scanner reports at home as he was beginning his shift, offered to respond with Haas.
The officers made plans to gain entry and send in the dog to subdue Turek. They took a tactical position as the door was forced open and Haller released Haas.
Turek fired seven shots at the officers, striking both Haas and Haller, before shooting himself in the head. Marcus returned a single buckshot round, which did not strike the suspect.
A Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol was found on the floor near Turek’s body. Six casings were recovered from the floor and two others were found in his pajama pants. Police said two knives were recovered from the living room during the execution of a search warrant, corroborating the victim’s initial domestic assault report.
Laboratory results indicated that Turek’s blood-alcohol concentration was .27 at the time of his death, and that he also had marijuana in his system. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a suicide.
Marcus’ decision to fire a round was “justified and therefore authorized under the law,” Rubin wrote in conclusion to his review of the case.
“Without question, under (state law), officer Marcus certainly had a lawful right to take his action of firing one shot in the direction of Turek as an act of self-defense,” the prosecutor wrote. “His actions did not result in either the wounding or taking the life of Mr. Turek.”
Turek was a native of the Toledo, Ohio, area. He had no apparent criminal history.
Haas, less than two years into his police service, was the first K-9 killed in the Duluth Police Department's history. At a Jan. 25 memorial service, attended by hundreds, the dog was lauded as a “hero.”
“Had Haas not done what he did that night, we'd likely be at a human police officer's funeral, or multiple human police officers' funerals," Haller said at the time. "I sent my partner into what ended up being his death. And he did it enthusiastically and without hesitation."