Iron Range officers cleared in fatal Chisholm shooting

The St. Louis County Attorney's Office has declined to file charges against three Iron Range law enforcement officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of a man in Chisholm, Minn. in April.

St. Louis County Attorney Kimberly Maki said county sheriff’s deputy Cody Dillinger and Virginia, Minn. police officer Nicholas Grivna were justified in killing Michael David Johnson, 38, who they were trying to arrest on a felony stalking charge filed in Morrison County.

A third officer was also involved. Deputy Gavin Nichols struck Johnson with two less lethal rounds before he was shot and killed.

According to the county attorney’s office, officers located Johnson early in the morning of April 20 at a home in Chisholm, where he allegedly refused to open the door and “said he wasn’t going to go back to jail.”

After officers forced their way into the house, Johnson allegedly came down the stairs with a knife in one hand and a gas tank in the other hand. Nichols fired two less lethal rounds, but according to the attorney’s office, that failed to slow his advance.

Johnson then allegedly threw the tank at an officer, revealing a second knife.

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After Johnson refused several commands to drop the knives, Dillinger and Grivna shot him six times on the front porch. They were unable to revive him.

St. Louis County Attorney Kimberly Maki determined the officers' actions were reasonable based on evidence — including body camera and dash camera footage — that she said showed the officers were reasonable to believe they faced a deadly threat.

“We extend our condolences to Michael Johnson’s family and friends for the loss of their loved one,” Maki said.

“While we mourn the loss of life,” Maki continued, “we have concluded that the actions taken by law enforcement in this incident were in accordance with the ‘reasonable officer’ standard set forth in Minnesota law.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the incident.

All three officers had been placed on administrative leave.

In 2018, Officer Grivna shot and killed a man holding a person at knifepoint in Virginia. The following year, then-St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin ruled Grivna’s action was justified, saying he likely saved a man’s life by shooting Scot Widmark, 41, in the head.