No charges for officers that shot suspect who stabbed K-9


The two police officers who fatally shot a man authorities said hid in the back of his closet and stabbed a K-9 will not face criminal charges.

A grand jury in Ramsey County decided not to indict officers John Jorgensen and Kyle Eckert, finding their actions on the night of Feb. 11 were justified, the county attorney said Thursday.

John Birkeland, 52 years old, was in his Roseville apartment at the time – police said they'd gotten calls from neighbors concerned about loud screaming and the sound of things breaking coming from inside.

According to the county attorney's office, police said Birkeland refused to open his door, and eventually went silent. That prompted them to forcibly enter and after some time waiting and calling out with no response, they searched the apartment.

A K-9, named Otis, indicated someone was hiding in the bedroom closet, according to the attorney's office. When they opened the door, Otis bit Birkeland, then Birkeland stabbed the dog in the head area.

Birkeland then lurched out of the closet while still holding the knife, and the officers, concerned about not having any space to retreat, fired, according to the review.

Birkeland was hit three times, and died of blood loss due to gunshot wounds, the medical examiner said.

He had a blood alcohol content of 0.235 at the time of his death, the county attorney's office said, and had a history of incidents with police that pointed to serious mental health issues.

Body cameras

The Roseville Police Department was testing recently purchased body cameras at the time.

The review from the Ramsey County Attorney's Office notes an Officer Christensen on the scene was wearing a body camera.

It captured audio of most of the incident, and while video was also taken, it doesn't always show what he was looking at – sometimes the visual is obstructed by a jacket, or is directed at a wall.

But the audio, as well as the video that does show the scene, all support officers' accounts, the review says.

'This is not the outcome anyone ... wanted'

The Roseville Police Department also commented on the grand jury's decision, extending their "deepest sympathies" to Birkeland's family, and calling it a "tragic event."

"I wish John would have received the mental health assistance he desperately needed," Chief of Police Rick Mathwig said. "Sadly, there are many people in Minnesota and throughout the country who are not receiving the mental health assistance they need."

Mathwig noted Roseville officers receive crisis intervention training on a regular basis, but as is protocol, they'll review their policies and procedures after they've had a chance to go over the investigators' report.

"This is not the outcome anyone, including the Roseville officers, wanted," Mathwig wrote, later adding: "Even with professionally trained staff and the best intentions, some police encounters end in deadly force. Any loss of life is tragic and we should remain mindful of this fact."

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