Updated: Thursday, July 25 | Posted: Wednesday, July 24
Prosecutors on Wednesday confirmed they charged a Washington County deputy with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the April 2018 shooting death of a man deputies had confronted in Lake Elmo.
The deputy, Brian Krook, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge in court Wednesday afternoon. He was released without bail.
He and other deputies were responding to a 911 call of a suicidal man at Lake Elmo Avenue and 34th Street North. Krook, 31, shot and killed Benjamin Evans, 23, after deputies tried to persuade Evans to put down a gun, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said at the time.
The BCA also said a handgun was found nearby, as well as a bean bag rifle that the agency said had not been fired. Video from dashboard and body cameras captured part, but not all of what happened.
In a statement, Krook’s attorney Kevin Short offered condolences to Evans' family but said Evans was "an armed, suicidal, emotionally disturbed man who refused many commands to put his weapon down."
Krook "had no choice but to follow his training and use deadly force," Short added.
Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry called it a “tragic case” and said his office was grieving as well. He added that he was proud to have deputies “willing to put their lives on the line every day to protect our citizens.”
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office is handling the case. The office said it convened a grand jury last week to investigate and review the facts of the shooting. Jurors returned an indictment on Friday.
It’s rare for law enforcement officers to be charged with a crime for killing someone in the line of duty. Krook is only the third Minnesota officer to be charged with manslaughter in an on-duty death.
Earlier this year, ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor became the first officer convicted of murder in the case where he shot and killed 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk.
This week Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced a blue ribbon panel to examine officer-involved shootings. However, Don Amorosi, whose son Archer was shot by police, says the group needs to include behavioral health experts because so many police shootings involve someone suffering from a mental illness.
The 16-year-old suffered a mental health crisis last summer. Archer’s mother called 911, saying he was violent in the house, had knives and a baseball bat, and that she feared her son would get in a confrontation with police. Carver County deputies fatally shot the teen.
In the year since his son was killed, Amorosi has been pushing for statewide standards for how police respond to people in crisis.
“If they have the money to outfit a deputy like a Navy SEAL, then they need to consider training them like a Navy SEAL, or at least adequately,” Amorosi said. He regards the indictment of deputy Krook as a step toward the change he’s seeking.
Correction (July 25, 2019): An earlier version mischaracterized the 911 call made in the Archer Amorosi case. The story is updated.