The Washington County sheriff’s deputy charged with manslaughter in the death of a man threatening suicide says he feels “horrible” that he fatally shot 23-year-old Benjamin Evans. But Deputy Brian Krook said he had no choice because Evans threatened his life and the lives of his colleagues during a standoff in Lake Elmo in 2018.
Krook was on the stand for more than an hour as defense attorney Kevin Short had his client recount the April 12, 2018, incident point by point.
Around midnight, at the end of Krook’s shift, a call came in about a man threatening to kill himself. Benjamin Evans, an off-duty EMT, had put on his dress-blue uniform, knelt down in an intersection and held a handgun to his head. Court documents say he was despondent over a recent breakup, had a blood alcohol level of .204 — two and a half times the legal limit to drive — and had left two suicide notes.
Krook was among several Washington County deputies who responded. One, Deputy Joshua Ramirez eventually convinced Evans to remove the gun’s magazine, but he continually refused to drop the weapon itself, which had a round in the chamber.
The 32-year-old Krook said he felt threatened. Even though Evans told officers he was not there to hurt them, Krook said “people say that to give you a false sense of security. It’s not reassurance for me.”
Krook said Evans was growing more “amped up and animated.” Nearly 40 minutes into the standoff, the deputy fired four rounds after he said Evans pointed his gun toward him and Deputy Michael Ramos. Krook ran up to Evans and fired three more rounds.
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While Evans had been holding the gun to his own head, Krook said, “Bullets don’t just stop after they go through someone.”
Prior Lake Police Chief Steven Frazer — a use of force expert who volunteered his time to the defense team — testified that Evans was behaving like a “loose cannon” and was without a doubt a danger to Krook and his colleagues throughout the incident.
Frazer said after reviewing video of the incident that “I would have shot him within the first few minutes.”
The chief’s testimony contrasted sharply with that of Lt. Derrick Hacker of the Crystal Police Department, a use of force expert whom prosecutors hired.
Hacker said that Krook “did not act consistent with his training or the training of a Minnesota peace officer” because there was no immediate threat of death or great bodily harm.
Hacker said Krook should have taken cover, warned Evans before shooting and used less-lethal bean bag rounds to disarm him.
Jurors must decide if Krook acted as a reasonable officer would have.
Noting the $22,000 that the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office paid Hacker to review the case and testify, defense attorney Paul Engh said it was “an attempt by prosecutors to buy a conviction.”
The government is expected to cross examine Krook Wednesday before the defense calls its last two witnesses: another use of force expert and a Washington County deputy who trained Krook.