Attorney: Police justified in deadly shooting during hostage situation

The fatal police shooting took place in the city's downtown on Nov. 27.
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Virginia Police Department

The police officer who shot and killed a suspect in Virginia, Minnesota, in November has been cleared of any wrongdoing. 

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin announced Thursday that Officer Nicholas Grivna of the Virginia Police Department "was placed in a situation which necessitated the use of deadly force in the course of his work." 

Killed in the incident was J. Scot Alan Widmark, 41, of Virginia. 

Rubin came to the conclusion after reviewing a report from Vernon D. Swanum, an attorney who conducted the case review and presented his findings, which are detailed below. 

It was of Swanum's opinion that Officer Grivna "was facing a situation where a private citizen was in grave imminent danger of great bodily harm" during the Nov. 27, 2018 incident. 

Details of the hostage situation

The original 911 call was made by a woman at 5:01 p.m. who had run from her vehicle parked on the street in downtown Virginia when Widmark forced his way into the passenger seat and demanded she get out. 

The first officer arrived on scene at 5:07 p.m. to Widmark sitting in the woman's car, but then got out and pulled a large knife from his jacket and started walking towards him before running the opposite direction. 

The officer followed on foot as Widmark ran south on 3rd Avenue, then grabbing a man from behind who'd been walking in the same direction. Widmark placed the man in a headlock with his left arm and raised the large knife in his right hand. 

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More law enforcement arrived on scene, including Grivna, who was armed with a rifle. 

Repeated attempts to get Widmark to lower his weapon and let the hostage go were unanswered and Widmark continued to back away from officers, with Grivna deciding he was out of options.

"Officer Grivna believed that unless he ended the situation that [hostage] would be stabbed," Swanum's report notes. 

The bullet struck Widmark in the right hand and then in the right cheek. 

Approximately four minutes passed between the shot and the time EMTs arrived to treat Widmark, who later died from his injuries. 

"I have concluded that officer Grivna displayed superb training, courage, restraint, compassion, and professionalism and his actions were justified, lawful and therefore authorized under the law," said Rubin. 

"He probably saved an innocent citizen's life." 

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