Lawyers for a Washington County sheriff’s deputy charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a suicidal man last year are asking a judge to dismiss the case.
Attorneys for Brian Krook say the shooting of 23-year-old Benjamin Evans was justified because he posed a threat to officers. The defense also contends that prosecutors kept critical information from a grand jury.
Brian Krook, 31, was among the deputies who responded to a Lake Elmo intersection in the middle of the night on April 12, 2018. There was a man in the road threatening to kill himself.
Even though the incident happened more than a year and a half ago, there’s been little information released publicly until now. In most criminal cases, prosecutors file a complaint that outlines their reasoning. But prosecutors took Krook’s case to grand jurors, and the indictment they returned listed only the charge, not the underlying facts.
Newly filed documents and testimony at a pretrial hearing Monday in Stillwater shed some light on the tragedy. In their motion to dismiss, Krook’s attorneys Kevin Short and Paul Engh said the off-duty emergency medical technician was distraught over breaking up with his girlfriend and left suicide notes indicating he wanted to be killed by police.
According to court documents, Evans wrote to his parents, “I’m going home now to meet grandma and grandpa…” And to first responders he reportedly said, ‘I’m sorry that this is another memory in your career, of another lost soul, but your job is not to save them all.’
Krook’s attorneys also said Evans had a blood alcohol level two-and-a-half times the legal limit to drive and was moving his gun between his chest and head.
In testimony to the grand jury, Krook said Evans’ motions with the gun made him uncomfortable. Krook said, “I’m worried that if you know, if he did pull the trigger while he’s got his head turned the bullet is going to come at us.”
After a 40-minute standoff in which deputies repeatedly told Evans to drop the gun, Krook fired an initial round of shots. Evans was hit, but still had his gun in his hand. Krook then approached Evans and fired another volley.
Even though a negotiator convinced Evans to remove his gun’s magazine, deputies recovered the weapon with a round in the chamber.
The grand jury returned the indictment after hearing testimony from two expert witnesses from California. Both former officers said Krook’s use of force was unreasonable.
The defense said the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, deliberately kept the grand jury from hearing a differing opinion.
Ramsey County Criminal Division Director Richard Dusterhoft said in court Monday that Prior Lake Police Chief Steven Frazer reviewed the case file and concluded that Krook acted properly.
Frazer was not formally hired as an expert witness, but the defense says he had several conversations with Dusterhoft, and the grand jury may have reached a different decision if they’d heard Frazer’s opinion.
Prosecutors said they never considered hiring Frazer as an expert because of fears he’d be seen as biased due to his extensive local law enforcement ties. The government argues it has no obligation to provide the grand jury with the opinion of someone it didn’t hire.
Unless Judge Mary Yunker sides with the defense and dismisses the case, Krook is scheduled to go on trial in March.