Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Deputy who fired shots in wrong house acted 'reasonably and lawfully'

The Dakota County Attorney has concluded that a Scott County deputy's actions were "reasonable and lawful" when he accidentally broke into the wrong house and fired several shots in the direction of a man who had done nothing wrong.

The information is contained in a press release emailed to KARE 11 Wednesday night by the Scott County Sheriff's Department.

On January 4, Deputy Marcus Hoffer responded to a call of domestic assault at a home in New Market Township.

Hoffer found two buildings on the property when he arrived -- a split level house and what appeared to be an empty pole barn.

The press release says Deputy Hoffer repeatedly banged on the door of the house, identified himself as a deputy, and eventually, when no one answered, forced his way inside.

He immediately spotted a man with a gun at the top of the stairs, and according to authorities, again identified himself as a deputy.

When the man appeared to raise his weapon, Deputy Hoffer fired five shots and left the house to wait for help.

The men inside were eventually arrested with no further incident.

The press release from Scott County quotes Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom as saying "given the limited information Deputy Hoffer had as he responded to the domestic call and the urgency of the situation, it was reasonable for Deputy Hoffer to assume that the domestic was or had occurred at the single family residence."

Backstrom also concluded the deputy lawfully fired his weapon, fearing for his own safety or that of others.

At the time, the man in the house, Justin Friedges, told KARE 11 the whole thing caught him and his brother off guard, and he didn't believe the man banging on his door was a deputy.

"I was just watching TV and then the guy comes banging on the door. Just sounds crazy. Just screaming open the door," Friedges said in January. "I was screaming get out. 911. I just barely got my head out and see a shadow of a guy and then a gun flash," Friedges said.

Friedges claimed at the time the deputy did not identify himself as a deputy until after firing shots.

Backstrom concluded otherwise.

According to Sheriff Kevin Studnicka, it was later discovered that the original domestic dispute call, made from a cell phone, came from the other building that was near the home at the same address.

No one was hurt in either incident.


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