Brian Fitch defense: 'Busy' drug dealer but no cop killer

Officer Patrick approaches the stopped car
A camera on the dash of his squad car shows Officer Scott Patrick as he approached a car he pulled over for a traffic stop. Seconds later, the driver shot and killed Patrick.
West St. Paul Police

Updated 4:15 p.m. | Posted 11:50 a.m.

The Brian Fitch trial began Thursday with prosecutors indicating the gun found in the SUV Fitch was driving when he was arrested was the gun used to kill Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick.

Prosecutors also played two videos from Patrick's squad car, including the view as Patrick approaches the vehicle he pulled over in West St. Paul during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

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He's shot and killed seconds after he leaves his squad, before reaching the window of the car he pulled over. The driver can't be seen.

Seconds after the car speeds away, someone can be heard shouting, "Call an ambulance. Hurry!"

Brian George Fitch
Brian George Fitch
Courtesy Minnesota Dept. of Corrections

The prosecution, in sometimes painful detail, walked through its timeline of events surrounding the afternoon traffic stop on July 30 where Patrick was gunned down and the police manhunt that led to Fitch's arrest hours later in St. Paul's North End.

Fitch, they alleged, was planning to leave the state when he was captured — he had $3,000 in his pocket and a map to Luck, Wis., drawn on a Jimmy John's lunch bag.

Fitch's attorney, however, dismissed the gun match as unreliable and said that while Fitch was a busy drug dealer who was collecting money from clients the day Patrick was killed, he did not kill Patrick during the traffic stop.

Officer Scott Patrick
Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick
Courtesy Mike Brue

Fitch has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting Patrick during the traffic stop. A grand jury indicted Fitch on first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder tied to a shootout with officers who ultimately captured him in St. Paul.

With a dozen of Patrick's friends and family members, including four brothers, present in the courtroom, prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft said Patrick was conducting a routine traffic stop when he was shot by Fitch.

The vehicle wasn't registered to Fitch, so Patrick could not have known Fitch, who had outstanding warrants, was driving.

Fitch, prosecutors allege, ditched the green Pontiac Grand Am at an acquaintance's house and borrowed an SUV. Eventually, the pursuit of Fitch led to a North End St. Paul parking lot where Fitch shot at officers and officers returned fire, wounding Fitch and pulling him from the driver's seat.

Prosecutors said police found many shell casings and the gun in the SUV as well as a 9 mm shell casing in the Grand Am.

Fitch's public defender, Lauri Traub, countered the police made up their minds quickly that Fitch shot Patrick and are now trying to make facts fit their timeline.

She said a witness initially described Patrick's assailant as a young man in his late teens or early 20s with blond hair and that an eyewitness did not identify Fitch in a photo lineup.

The intersection of Smith Avenue and Dodd Road
The intersection of Smith Avenue and Dodd Road in West St. Paul, where Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick was shot at a traffic stop on July 30, 2014.
Tim Nelson / MPR News 2014

Traub also suggested Fitch fired only once at police when he was confronted in St. Paul, adding, "It wasn't attempted murder. It was something much less."

Witnesses this morning and afternoon recounted in wrenching detail how they came upon Patrick after the shooting and tried to help.

The courtroom was quiet as jurors watched the two videos from Patrick's squad car, including the last moments before he was shot three times. The edited video below combines the two views.

Advisory: The video below does not show Officer Scott Patrick being shot, but viewers may still find it disturbing.

West St. Paul Police Officer Daniel Cook, who was the first on the scene of the Patrick shooting described Patrick lying on the ground, not breathing, in a pool of blood.

Jennifer O'Keefe, a nurse, recalled the chaos of the moment, with lots of people yelling "call 911," and someone grabbing the police radio to call out "Officer down."

She performed CPR but said it did more harm than good as blood poured from the officer's head with the chest compression.

Amy Stickler, who works and lives in the area, recalled suddenly hearing "2 pows. I looked to my left and I saw a green car spin its wheels and go right in front of me. I saw Officer Patrick laying in front of his squad car."

She said she stood there and froze, thinking he would get up and do something, but he didn't.