An off-duty St. Paul police officer who confronted a shoplifting suspect at a local Wal-Mart had a gun pointed directly in his face before knocking it away and chasing after the fleeing suspect, according to charges filed Tuesday.
James Ryan Frei, a 34-year-old from Tomah, Wisconsin, is charged with second-degree assault, fleeing a police officer, and illegally possessing a firearm as a felon, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office announced.
The incident happened Sunday afternoon, at the Wal-Mart at 1450 University Ave. in St. Paul.
Frei, according to the charges, pointed a gun at the face of St. Paul police officer Michael Tschida when confronted about stealing an electronics item. Tschida, a five-year veteran of the force, slapped away the firearm and gave chase, then fired his service weapon at the vehicle Frei fled in.
Surveillance stills (like the one seen at left) were included in the criminal complaint.
Frei was arrested after a high-speed pursuit that ended with him crashing in a construction zone, the charges say.
Frei is due in court Tuesday.
There is a warrant out for his arrest out of La Crosse County, Wisconsin, for failing to appear on a motor vehicle theft charge. He has convictions out of Oklahoma (armed robbery, battery with a dangerous weapon and escape) and Wisconsin (burglary and escape).
The details of what happened
Here's a detailed look at what happened Sunday, according to the criminal complaint (click here to read it):
Frei was seen at the store picking up an item with a security wrap on it, and taking it into a changing room with a number of clothing items. When he left the room, he put the clothes on a folding table and began walking toward the exit. Inside the fitting room, asset protection officers found an empty bluetooth speaker box.
Tschida was called, and he made contact with Frei in the store's vestibule and ushered him back into the store. When Tschida suggested he go to the apprehension office, Frei turned his body away, pulled out a gun, then turned back toward Tschida, pointing the weapon inches from the officer's face.
Tschida hit the gun away, spun, and pulled out his own weapon – Frei fled to the parking lot where he quickly got into a pickup truck.
Tschida fired at the truck, hitting it several times.
Police began pursuing Frei; one officer said he saw Frei point a gun out the window at officers during the chase.
Frei sped through stop signs down Summit Avenue, but turned into a construction zone near St. Anthony Avenue and crashed his truck into a parked SUV.
He got out of the car and fled on foot, but lost a shoe, eventually fell and was arrested.
Officers found a 9mm handgun in the truck he'd been driving.