Alleged shoplifter who pulled gun at Walmart is charged

Walmart security camera images
Ramsey County officials have charged James Frei with assault and fleeing a police officer. These Walmart security camera images show a portion of the alleged incident between Frei and an off-duty St. Paul police officer.
Courtesy Ramsey County Attorney

A Wisconsin man who allegedly pulled a gun on an off-duty police officer at a St. Paul Walmart over the weekend has been charged in Ramsey County. The officer fired shots while chasing the man, although no one was injured during the incident.

James Ryan Frei, 34, of Tomah, Wis., is charged with fleeing police, illegal possession of a firearm and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Police say Frei pulled a gun on an off-duty police officer working at the University Avenue Walmart on Sunday afternoon. The officer, later identified as Michael Tschida, fired his gun at Frei as he fled in his pickup truck.

According to the criminal charges, Frei tried to steal a Bluetooth speaker from the Walmart where Tschida was employed. When Tschida confronted him, Frei pulled a handgun and "pointed it inches away from Officer Tschida's face."

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"Officer Tschida slapped the gun away from his face, spun away, and drew his own firearm," according to the criminal complaint. "Frei then fled the store out of the already open motion-operated door."

Tschida shot at Frei in the parking lot as he tried to escape in his truck, missing him but hitting the truck multiple times. Frei led police on a pursuit until he crashed into a parked SUV on Aldine Street and Edmund Avenue. Frei tried to flee on foot but fell after losing a shoe, and officers arrested him.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi praised Tschida. "This is truly a frightening case that underscores the danger that police officers face on a daily basis," Choi said.

Prosecutors say a warrant had been issued for Frei's arrest in La Crosse County, Wis., on charges related to motor vehicle theft. He's also been convicted of armed robbery, battery and escape in Oklahoma, which makes him ineligible to own a gun. He's been convicted of burglary and escape in Wisconsin.

Frei was to make his first appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center.