Fitch convicted of first-degree murder in death of Mendota Heights police officer

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A jury in St. Cloud convicted Brian Fitch, Sr., of first-degree murder Monday for last summer's shooting death of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick.

WCCO reports jurors deliberated for nine hours and returned their verdict shortly before 10 p.m. Monday. They found the 40-year-old Fitch guilty on all nine criminal counts he faced.

Fitch will be sentenced Wednesday. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Fitch yelled to the judge: “You threw this whole case from the beginning. Everything that came up, you overruled every single one of them,” according to the Star Tribune. The paper noted that spectators in the courtroom began applauding as Fitch was led out.

Michelle Patrick sobbed as she spoke after the verdict, according to the Star Tribune, saying, "God bless Fitch. I hope he can come to a realization of what he has done," she said. "He has taken so much from us. He didn’t need to. I just want to bless him and hope that he realizes what he has done. Amen to him.”

According to WCCO, Patrick's brother Mike Brue said Patrick's family is happy with the guilty verdict, but "not celebrating." He said they feel for Fitch's family and thanked them for their condolences.

"We hope Brian Fitch finds remorse," Brue said, according to WCCO.

Closing arguments

The day began with closing arguments in the trial, which was moved away from Dakota County because of concerns about finding impartial jurors there.

Fitch's lawyers rested last week without calling witnesses, and Fitch did not testify. In closing arguments, Fitch's attorney attempted to poke holes in forensic gun evidence, arguing that he wasn't the shooter, KARE 11 says, while prosecutors maintained he was guilty and outlined a timeline of Fitch's actions the day of Patrick's death.

The trial was marked by dramatic proceedings, including erratic behavior from Fitch, the allegation that he hatched a plot to murder witnesses (one of them his ex-girlfriend) from his prison cell, and the replacement of two jurors who were afraid for their safety.

The drama continued through the final day of arguments, with FOX 9 reporting half of the Mendota Heights police force showed up to attend the proceedings, leaving only standing room.

For his part, Fitch is reported to have shouted "overruled" while prosecutors were wrapping up their case. They were arguing that Fitch intended to kill as many police officers as he could during the shootout that followed Officer Patrick's death, KARE 11 reports.

Defense lawyers argued that authorities have the wrong man; according to the station, the attorneys said the "two people in the best position to see the shooter" described a man in his 20s with sandy blond hair. Fitch is bald and in his late 30s.

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