Prosecutors have determined that a St. Louis Park police officer was "within the law" when he shot a man to death during a standoff last year.
On January 19, officers were called to a local apartment complex to respond to a domestic violence situation, where the suspect — 35-year-old Matthew Neil Tuhkanen — would ultimately be shot dead.
On Friday, the Hennepin County attorney's office announced that it will not file charges against Samuel Heffernan, the officer who fired on Tuhkanen.
"Officer Heffernan had an objectively reasonable belief that Mr. Tuhkanen posed an apparent threat of great bodily harm or death to multiple people," a press release says.
It was Tuhkanen's girlfriend — with whom he had a child — who called 911 on him that night. Officers soon arrived at the Louisiana Court Apartments, and subsequently found the suspect "holed up" in a corner of his girlfriend's bedroom.
What ensued was a confrontation during which "Tuhkanen was agitated and yelling" and refusing to obey commands.
According to the release, it came to a head when the suspect "turned toward the dresser with a hand on his waistband and then made a jerking motion with his left hand," leaning into "an area the officers couldn’t see."
Hefferman fired four shots, striking Tuhkanen in the torso and right arm, killing him.
All the officers present "told investigators they thought Tuhkanen was going to pick up something from the area the officers couldn’t see."
From beginning to end, the entire encounter lasted 12 minutes.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman issued the following statement:
“All of these cases are a tragedy for the family of the victim, for the officers on the scene and for the community. But Mr. Tuhkanen had frightened his girlfriend to the point where she could barely speak. The confined space and Mr. Tuhkanen’s refusal to obey police commands and his sudden movement toward a hidden area gave the officers every reason to believe he was reaching for a weapon.”
Tuhkanen had prior warrants in Anoka County for trespassing, assault and disorderly conduct.