Duluth police say officer violated policies; defense calls shooting charges 'untenable'

Tyler Leibfried will remain "off duty indefinitely," it was announced shortly after he was arraigned on two felony charges.

Tyler Leibfried.jpg
Tyler Leibfried

A defense attorney said he intends to file a "really complex motion" to dismiss two felony firearm charges against the Duluth police officer who shot an unarmed man through the door of a downtown apartment in September.

Attorney Paul Engh called the charges "untenable" as officer Tyler Leibfried, 28, was arraigned in State District Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Leibfried, of Hermantown, appeared after receiving a summons on charges of intentional and reckless discharge of a firearm in the non-fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jared Fyle at the Kingsley Heights Apartments, 105 W. First St., on the night of Sept. 12.

PREVIOUSLY: Duluth police officer charged in shooting; victim still has bullet in his back The department is "immediately commencing an administrative investigation" into Officer Tyler Leibfried, who remains on paid leave.
Meanwhile, about two hours after the short hearing concluded, police officials announced that Leibfried will remain "off duty indefinitely."

"We believe that Officer Leibfried’s actions were contrary to Duluth Police Department policies and training guiding use of force," the statement said, indicating an internal review has now concluded.


Police cited personnel data privacy laws in declining to provide additional information. Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, a disciplinary action only becomes public upon "final disposition," after any grievance rights are exhausted.

Leibfried had been on paid leave since the shooting, with police opening the internal review as he was charged on Nov. 30 and investigative files became available. City officials would not confirm late Wednesday whether Leibfried was still being paid or provide a reason for withholding that public information.

“I am aware of the process to review the incident involving Mr. Leibfried and support the Duluth Police Department’s efforts to address it as appropriate," Chief Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman said in a statement. "As with other personnel matters, and pursuant to Minnesota state statute, I am unable to provide further comment at this time.”

Leibfried was the first officer on scene at a possible domestic disturbance call and was approaching Fyle's apartment when he reported hearing a loud noise that he believed to be a gunshot. He responded by firing six shots through the door, wounding Fyle, who still has a bullet lodged in his back.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the case, finding no firearms in Fyle's apartment. Prosecutors said body camera footage showed Leibfried firing four shots in quick succession, waiting approximately six seconds, and then firing two additional rounds, even after Fyle had yelled out in pain.

A second officer who was in the hallway did not shoot. He later told investigators he also believed he had heard gunfire but "wasn't going to start putting rounds into this apartment just on a guess."

Leibfried, wearing a suit coat and tie, answered a series of procedural questions from Judge Sally Tarnowski as he appeared via Zoom for Wednesday's court appearance.

Engh, who has handled numerous high-profile police shooting cases in Minnesota, told the court that he'll be filing a "detailed motion" to dismiss on the basis that Leibfried acted lawfully under constitutional protections afforded to police officers.


St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin is personally prosecuting the case, which is believed to be the first against a Duluth officer for a shooting. He said he's turned over initial reports and evidence to the defense and was working to respond to additional requests.

Read more Northland crime stories here.

Fyle's attorney, Andrew Poole, has said he doesn't believe that the "charged crimes adequately address the act of purposefully shooting at an unarmed person through a closed door." He has not ruled out civil litigation.

Leibfried's next court appearance was scheduled for Jan. 8.

This story was updated at 6:08 p.m. Dec. 16 with additional information from the police department and the city of Duluth. It was originally posted at 4:13 p.m. Dec. 16.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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