Two video clips filed in State District Court show the moment a Duluth police officer fired through the closed door of a downtown apartment unit, injuring an unarmed man inside.
The body camera clips were filed by St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin in response to a defense request to dismiss two felony firearm charges against Tyler Leibfried.
The video, as previously described in court documents, shows Leibfried and fellow officer Cory Lindsholm walking up to a third-floor unit at the Kingsley Heights Apartments on the night of Sept. 12, after they received a report of a possible domestic disturbance. They determined there was no cause for arrest but were planning to speak with the occupant, Jared Fyle.
Leibfried, trailed by Lindsholm, was approaching the door when two loud banging noises could be heard — something both officers later stated they believed to be gunshots. The videos show Leibfried ducking into a small alcove, with Lindsholm seeking cover down the hallway and around a corner.
Leibfried quickly calls out "shots fired" over the radio and retrieves his duty pistol as Lindsholm is heard yelling his name from down the hall. The video shows Leibfried pointing his gun at the door, which has no signs of damage, for several seconds before firing an initial volley of four shots — some 10 seconds after the initial banging noises were heard.
Fyle, who remains inside the apartment, can be heard screaming "Stop!" at least nine times, followed by an expression of "Ow!" Leibfried, after waiting 6 seconds, then fires an additional two rounds into the door as further screams are heard from Fyle and others in the building.
"Please! Stop!" Fyle is heard shouting. "Can I open the door? Stop! Ow! I got shot! Open the door! Open the door! Please! Stop!"
Leibfried is heard summoning medical attention for the victim as Lindsholm continues to call out his name. After several seconds, the officer is seen running down the hallway to his partner.
Leibfried and Lindsholm had not yet announced their presence when the incident started. An investigation suggested the initial gunshot-like sounds were probably from Fyle forcibly closing the apartment door, unaware the officers were about to arrive.
Fyle, 23, still has a bullet lodged in his back as a result of the incident. He has retained an attorney, who has not ruled out a lawsuit against the city.
Defense attorney Paul Engh argued Leibfried's charges should be dismissed because he was justified in firing the moment he heard apparent shots under the "reasonable officer" standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Rubin cited Leibfried's initial delay in firing, along with his decision to fire two additional rounds after Fyle could be heard screaming in pain. The prosecutor wrote that he used "poor judgment, fueled by fear."
Leibfried, an Army Reserves veteran, told Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators that the hallway was a "fatal funnel" — a narrow passage that left little room for him and his partner to safely maneuver. But Rubin said he had enough time to see that no shots had passed through the door and cited the statement of Lindsholm, who told investigators that he "wasn't going to start putting rounds into this apartment just on a guess."
Sixth Judicial District Judge Sally Tarnowski on Monday upheld charges of intentional and reckless discharge of a firearm, ruling there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to a jury trial.
PREVIOUSLY: Judge upholds Duluth officer's shooting charges
"The pause before the first volley of four shots, the pause before the second volley of two shots, combined with the closed door and the victim’s later pleas for help, raise the question of whether or not defendant’s actions were objectively reasonable," Tarnowski wrote in an 11-page decision.
"The court recognizes the myriad dangers inherent to the job of a police officer," she added. "The court respects the immense difficulties raised by split second decisions in circumstances where the lives of citizens and the lives of officers are in danger. However, based upon the complaint and the record before it, the court concludes that defendant’s motion to dismiss must be denied."
Leibfried, a five-year veteran, will remain "off-duty indefinitely," according to Duluth police. He is scheduled to be back in court April 15.