An Itasca County man who opened fire on deputies responding to a domestic assault call in February has pleaded guilty to six assault charges.
Roy Thomas Miller, 45, entered a Norgaard plea to five felony counts of first-degree assault and a misdemeanor count of domestic assault Wednesday in State District Court in Grand Rapids. A Norgaard plea allows a defendant to assert that he is unable to recall all of the facts of the incident due to intoxication or amnesia while acknowledging that there is sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
Authorities said Miller was irate over being urinated on by a dog before he assaulted two family members and opened fire on Itasca County deputies who responded to his Walker Road residence, about 6 miles north of Hill City and just north of the Aitkin County line, on Feb. 10.
Lt. A.J. Morse, Sgt. Ryan Gunderson and Deputy Derek Peterlin all returned fire before Miller sideswiped two squad cars, crashed into a ditch and surrendered, according to a criminal complaint. Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam in June ruled that the deputies were justified in their use of deadly force.
Five counts of attempted second-degree murder and an additional count of domestic assault will be dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement. Adam said Miller faces roughly 14 to 16 years in prison.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Sarah McBroom scheduled sentencing for Dec. 18.
According to court documents:
An Aitkin County man reported to police that his ex-wife and son were at his house after being assaulted by Miller. A deputy who responded to the residence observed that the two victims were covered in blood.
The woman told deputies that the incident started when Miller picked up the family dog, which then urinated on him. When the wife and son began to laugh, Miller became "upset and aggressive." After the woman said she was going to call 911, Miller grabbed her cellphone and broke it.
Miller allegedly threw the woman to the ground and punched her in the face with a closed fist. He also punched the stepson and threw a humidifier at him, the victims told police.
As the two victims attempted to leave the house, Miller retrieved a firearm and told them, "You need to get out of here." Miller followed them out the door and headbutted the rear window of the Jeep, shattering it.
The wife told investigators that Miller had multiple firearms in the residence and had been making suicidal references recently. She said living with him was like "Jekyll and Hyde."
The son reported that he believed his nose may have been broken and he had difficulty seeing out of one of his eyes. Knowing Miller had firearms, he said he was so scared that he ran out of the residence without proper clothing or anything on his feet.
Both victims were treated at a Grand Rapids hospital for facial bruises and swelling.
Meanwhile, five Itasca County deputies were dispatched to Miller's residence in an attempt to make contact. As they approached the driveway, they reported hearing two gunshots overhead.
Soon after, Miller drove by in a pickup truck. Officers commanded him to stop, but he instead raised a handgun and began firing shots in their direction.
Three deputies returned fire, and the truck struck two squad cars before going into a ditch. Officers continued to give commands before Miller threw the gun out the window and exited the truck. He was arrested and transported to a Duluth hospital for treatment.
Adam said in her June report that Miller apologized to the deputies and asked them to "finish him off" at the scene. Inside his residence, they also found a handwritten note labeled "last will and testament" containing suicidal statements.
The county attorney said the deputies exercised "objectively reasonable" judgment in using deadly force. Adam said the officers were aware of Miller's threats and planned to de-escalate the situation by keeping a distance from the home. But they were left with no choice when the suspect came out firing, she said.
"The officers acted reasonably in returning fire because Mr. Miller's shooting posed the immediate and direct threat of death or great bodily harm to each of the officers present at the scene," Adam wrote.