Eagan officer was justified when he fatally shot armed suspect, grand jury says

Police said the man had been firing a handgun from a vehicle.

An Eagan police officer who fatally shot a suspect in the head will not face charges.

A Dakota County grand jury this week determined Eagan police Sgt. Nathan Tennessen was "legally justified" when he shot 37-year-old Justin Lee Kulhanek-Derks on Aug. 28, a news release from the attorney's office says.

Tennessen and two other officers had responded to a report of a man firing a handgun from a vehicle that was parked outside an apartment complex. Investigators said Kulhanek-Derks ignored officers' commands and fired his gun near the officers, which prompted Tennessen to shoot back at the suspect, killing him.

“Law enforcement officers are trained to protect and serve our communities each and every day. Unfortunately there are times when officers are placed in a situation where they must use deadly force to protect themselves and the public," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in the news release.

Charges against officers are rare

The Dakota County Attorney's Office has been using grand juries in use of deadly force cases since 1990. But summoning a grand jury in these types of cases has been controversial as of late, with some noting grand juries rarely bring charges against police officers.

And in two recent high-profile officer-involved shootings in Minnesota – Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police and Philando Castile by a St. Anthony officer – potential charges were considered by the county attorney's office, not a grand jury.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided not to bring charges against the officers involved in Clark's death, but said he would no longer use grand juries in these cases because of “accountability and transparency limitations.”

And last month, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced that his office – without the use of a grand jury – was charging St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez with manslaughter in connection to Castile's death. (Yanez has since asked for the charges to be dropped.)

The manslaughter charge marked the first time an on-duty officer in Minnesota had been charged in the fatal shooting of someone in at least the past 16 years, according to the Star Tribune’s database.

Next Up