St. Paul police fatally shoot man during confrontation

Shooting scene investigation
Evidence is examined at the site of an officer-involved shooting in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

Updated: 10:00 p.m. | Posted: 6 a.m.

St. Paul police shot and killed a man during a confrontation early Wednesday, police said.

The officers involved in the shooting were not injured.

Evidence at the scene and people who knew the suspect and his family identified him as Marcus Golden. Also, in police audio of the incident, a dispatcher referred to the suspect by that name. Golden was known to have lived in St. Paul and Princeton, Minn.

NAACP press conference
Jeff Martin, NAACP St. Paul branch president, talks to the media about the fatal shooting.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Court records show he had a criminal history, including a 2012 conviction for carrying a loaded handgun. The conviction stems from an incident in which police arrested him with a gun in his pants at a St. Paul recreation center. A former girlfriend reported hiding inside after he'd threatened to shoot her.

For much of the day, police did not say whether the suspect had threatened police. But late Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief Thomas Smith said in a statement that preliminary information indicates the man drove his vehicle at the officers.

At about 1 p.m., police announced that they had recovered a gun at the scene.

The shooting of Golden, a young black man, came as Minnesota and the country were grappling with racial tensions related to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and New York have prompted mass protests in those cities and elsewhere, including the Twin Cities.

In his statement, Smith said officers were canvassing the area for witnesses and seeking the public's help.

"As this is a very active case, I ask citizens to be patient and allow us to thoroughly complete our process," the chief said.

But some community leaders have questioned the ability of the department to conduct an investigation of an officer-involved shooting.

Within hours of the shooting, the St. Paul NAACP called for an independent investigation.

Sgt. Paul Paulos
St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos
Elizabeth Flores / The Star Tribune via AP

Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul branch, said he wants an out-of-state investigator because the city's police civilian review board is not independent.

"What I'm worried about is what exists is a lack of trust between the community and the police department," Martin said. "We need a working police department to keep our community safe. We need the community to be involved in that process to keep our community safe. If there's no trust between the police and the community, we all lose. That's what I am worried about."

The shooting occurred at about 2:15 a.m. on the 200 block of University Avenue East. Sgt. Paul Paulos said police were called to 261 University Ave. E after receiving reports that a woman was being threatened by phone.

A police dispatcher told officers that a caller said his former girlfriend's ex-boyfriend had been sending death threats via text message and had been seen in the building's parking lot.

When officers arrived, they were told that the man threatening her sometimes carried a gun.

The site of an officer-involved shooting
A vehicle is photographed at the site of an officer-involved shooting in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. The shooting occurred earlier in the day on the 200 block of University Avenue East.
Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

"He is known to carry a gun, but no gun was seen tonight," the dispatcher said.

Shortly thereafter, officers reported "shots fired." They said medics were needed for a gunshot victim.

"St. Paul paramedics were called immediately," Paulos said. "He was pronounced dead at the scene."

The shooting marks at least the 60th officer-involved fatal shooting in the state since 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. St. Paul officers have been involved in 11 of those shootings, and Minneapolis officers in four.

At least five of those killed by police in St. Paul were black men.

Martin, of the NAACP, said that in calling for an outside investigation, even as police continued to gather evidence and statements, the organization was not rushing to judgment.

"What we're asking for from the NAACP, which is what I am sure every citizen in the city of St. Paul is asking for, is that a complete investigation be done," he said. "We're not assuming that that's not going to be done, but with this particular situation, with the environment that we have in our nation, with names such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Mr. [Chris] Lollie, even our own skyway incident being in the news on a national level, we're asking at this time that the St. Paul police department and the mayor's office maybe consider hiring an independent investigator to take a look at this case."

A Twin Cities civil rights attorney and activist also called for an independent investigation of the shooting.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor, said an outside inquiry would boost confidence in the shooting investigation. She noted that the officers who arrested Lollie were found not at fault, contributing to "a pattern of tension between police and community."

"When the public does not feel there is a sense of justice, it further erodes trust between police and community," she said.

The officers involved in the latest shooting have not yet been identified publicly.

Paulos, the police spokesman, said one officer involved in the shooting has served on the force for seven years, while the other has served for two years.

Both officers are on a three-day standard administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

The high-rise building where it occurred is a public housing complex that serves residents who are elderly or disabled and require some non-medical services to be independent.

It usually is very quiet, said Anita Stokes, who lives there.

"I've never known any trouble to be here," Stokes said. "Not where I live — I'm totally shocked."

Earnest Griffin, who lives on the bluff above the parking lot where the shooting took place, also was taken aback by the violence.

"I came home about 2:30 after getting off of work and heard four or five gunshots," Griffin said. "It's unusual right around here with the hospital and the police station right down the street."

MPR News reporter Riham Feshir contributed to this report

Here's early audio on the incident from St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos:

And police scanner chatter from Jan. 14:

Location of shooting


Timeline: Shootings by St. Paul police since 2008 (Source: BCA)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.