Chaotic scene, then massive manhunt follows officer's slaying

SWAT teams pack up
The Dakota County M.A.A.G. team leaves a home on Pond Circle W. in Mendota Heights.
Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

Brian Fitch Sr., the suspect in the West St. Paul shooting death of a Mendota Heights police officer, is in "serious condition" at Regions Hospital, officials said Thursday.

Police say they are seeking no suspects beyond Fitch in connection with the killing of officer Scott Patrick.

Fitch, 39, was captured Wednesday night in St. Paul's North End after an eight hour manhunt ended with a gun battle.

The woman struck by gunfire during Fitch's arrest, Kelly Lee Hardy of Maplewood, is in fair condition, St. Paul police said Thursday.

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Patrick was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon during what police described as a routine traffic stop. He is the first police officer from Mendota Heights to be killed in the line of duty.

• Previously: Police officer shot, killed in West St. Paul
• Map: Where Officer Patrick was shot
• Video: An eyewitness describes the shooting
• Link: List of Minn. officers killed in the line of duty

Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick
Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick.
City of Mendota Heights via KARE 11

Kimberly Alley was on her way back to work at HealthPartners, when she saw a woman jump out of an SUV, screaming that a police officer had been shot.

"I pulled around and there was a nurse giving him chest compressions and he was not doing very well," she said. "Went over and took his pulse. He was not -- I can't pronounce him dead -- but he was not doing very well. It's a tragic, horrible, horrible scene."

Patrick was taken to Regions Hospital where he died.

Meanwhile, police began searching for a green Pontiac sedan seen speeding from the scene. Officers from other local police departments, along with SWAT teams, and the FBI, also searched neighborhoods. By late afternoon, they were focused on finding Fitch.

A massive manhunt started in Mendota Heights, where police went to two homes, including one on Pond Circle East police. As they moved in, Mary Paquin, a neighbor, was working in her basement when she heard a commotion outside.

"When I got to my window I noticed the entire street was lined with police officers, weapons drawn, shotguns, there were troopers, there were undercover cops, there were all variety of police officers and they were throughout the whole neighborhood, the whole street was blocked," she said.

Brian Fitch, Sr
Brian Fitch Sr., was captured after a gun battle.
Courtesy St. Paul Police

Officers then searched an area on the west side of St. Paul, not far from Humboldt High School.

For more than an hour, a seven-block stretch of South Robert Street was closed, and a crowd formed along stretches of yellow police tape, as SWAT officers with guns drawn crouched behind their SUV doors and stood near a concrete wall.

But then suddenly, just before 8 p.m. the police cleared out of that neighborhood and gathered to just north of the State Capitol where officers spotted Fitch driving down Sycamore Street. Police say when he tried to make a U turn in a parking lot, officers blocked him.

St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos described what happened next.

"As the main driver, police officer got out of his squad car, Fitch opened up and started to fire on that particular officer. Officers from the passenger side of the vehicle at that time returned fire, striking Fitch several times," Paulos said.

Fitch was taken to Regions Hospital. A woman in the car with him was also struck, but Paulos said her injuries were not life threatening.

Fitch has a lengthy criminal history, according to state records. He has felony convictions for assault with a dangerous weapon, and misdemeanor convictions for making terroristic threats in 2013 and for first-degree assault in that same year. In June, authorities declared him a fugitive.

Investigators now hope to find out more about the shooting.

Officer Scott Patrick had been with the Mendota Heights police department since 1995, and was its most senior officer. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener remembered him at a news conference.

"He was a very dedicated police officer and a family man who absolutely adored his children. It's going to be a very trying time for them. He cared deeply about the City of Mendota Heights. And it's going to be a very tough time for the Mendota Heights Police Department," Aschenbrener said.

At an evening vigil held near the West St. Paul intersection where gun shots disrupted an otherwise normal suburban day, John Plut talked about what made him drive from Eagan.

"I just felt like I had to do something, so I headed over here and hopefully support what's going on here," he said. "I can't quit shaking my head over it. It's like, what do you say, you know?"

A fund for Officer Patrick's family was launched last night on the website gofundme.com.

Map of the intersection where Officer Scott Patrick was shot

An eyewitness describes the scene of the shooting