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No charges against 4 officers who fatally shot armed robbery suspect near Minnesota River

The 24-year-old suspect allegedly fired shots at numerous law enforcement officers.

No charges will be filed against four officers who fired their weapons in the fatal shooting of an armed robbery suspect who allegedly shot at deputies and police while floating on a raft down the Minnesota River in April. 

Le Sueur County Sheriff Brett Mason announced Friday that the investigation into the shooting led to a determination that the officers did the right thing by discharging their firearms. 

The deadly encounter followed an April 18 report of an armed robbery at a convenience store on Highway 169, with the suspect, identified as 24-year-old Austin D. Heights, then crossing the highway and heading toward the Minnesota River. 

Heights was spotted by authorities a short time later on a raft, at which point he fired several times at police. Officers returned fire, fatally striking Heights. The four officers involved who will not be charged are: 

  • Paul Biederman, 15-year veteran deputy with the Nicollet County Sheriff's Office.
  • Lt. Jeremy Brennan, 19-year veteran with the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office. 
  • James Othoudt, 13-year veteran deputy with the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office.
  • Chris Hendrickson, 20-year veteran officer with North Mankato PD. 

The release from the Le Sueur County Sheriff's Office says Heights ignored commands from officers to return to shore and began paddling north on the river. A Blue Earth County deputy and a DNR conservation officer then approached Heights on a DNR watercraft, and after the officers told Heights to show his hands he allegedly raised his gun and fired at them. 

More law enforcement watercraft arrived and took gunfire from Heights. 

Heights then paddled north and came ashore on the east side of the Minnesota River, where he attempted to flee while in possession of two long guns through a wooded area that led to a residential area. 

"Given Heights criminal behavior, failure to respond to commands from law enforcement and the multiple rounds fired upon law enforcement, deadly force was necessary to protect other law enforcement officers and civilians from great bodily harm or death," the release from the sheriff's office said. 

Le Sueur County Attorney Brent Christian reviewed the case and determined that the fatal shooting of Heights was justified and authorized under statute 609.066, which defines "authorized use of deadly force by peace officers."

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