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Deputy cleared for firing bean bag round at man involved in domestic assault: No criminal charges will be filed

Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf said no criminal charges will be filed against the deputy.

Morrison County Sheriff Squad

LITTLE FALLS -- No criminal charges will be filed against a Morrison County deputy after he was cleared for using force against a man during a May domestic assault incident.

Morrison County Attorney Brian J. Middendorf made the determination to not pursue criminal charges after reviewing the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigative reports in the matter, a news release stated.

“I have determined that the use of force was clearly authorized by law and that criminal charges are not warranted,” Middendorf stated.

The incident

The Morrison County Sheriff’s Office was called May 22 to a domestic assault involving a knife at a residence near Genola, about 30 miles south of Brainerd. The victim reported she was assaulted by Robert Allen Anderson, 44, Motley, and she was being treated in the emergency room for her injuries. She stated Anderson pulled a knife on her and told her he was going to kill her. Based on the allegations, Anderson was later charged with two felonies -- second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and domestic assault.

The victim also told authorities that after Anderson left her residence, he sent her a series of text messages stating she should call police because he would kill himself or have law enforcement kill him, the release stated. Law enforcement attempted to locate Anderson and found him inside a vehicle stuck in a field about 6 miles west of Genola. Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen, Sgt. Doug Rekstad and Deputy Bill Vanden Avond, along with two officers from the Little Falls Police Department, responded.

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The entire encounter was captured on squad video with audio and lasted about two minutes. In the video, Vanden Avond and a Little Falls officer are seen approaching Anderson directly from the front and the other three officers are moving off the side in a tactical formation. All five officers are carrying weapons, and Vanden Avond carries a less lethal weapon that discharges bean bag rounds.

The video shows the officers are clearly shouting commands at Anderson to open the door and get out of his car. He is told at least 20 times to either open the door or get out of the car. Anderson doesn’t comply with the orders or show any indication he intends to comply, the release stated. Anderson is heard saying, “No,” to the commands.

The video shows Anderson leaning out the open window of his vehicle, exposing his upper torso, and then withdrawing back inside his vehicle. This was done repeatedly. Anderson also is heard stating he has a gun. About 90 seconds into the encounter, Vanden Avond informs the officers on the left and right side of him he intends to deploy his weapon if Anderson leans further out of the vehicle. A moment later, Anderson leans out of his vehicle again, fully exposing his upper torso, and Vanden Avond discharges his weapon and strikes him in the chest with a bean bag round, the release stated.

Officers immediately began providing Anderson with medical assistance. No firearm was found in the vehicle, but a knife was located.

“Although the squad video speaks for itself, the statements from the law enforcement officers involved help explain their thought process throughout the encounter,” Middendorf stated in the release.

The sheriff explained his concerns with Anderson having a weapon: “He proceeded to grab a black object. … It came rather fast. I believe it was his right hand and it came back out towards the window … you could see it come up and I honestly didn’t know what it was … I didn’t know if it was a weapon or not.

“We believe the knife’s still in his possession and then he wants to either get killed, kill himself or he wants us to kill him. … We didn’t want to take any chances so again we gave him verbal commands and then discussed the possibility of being able to get him with the less lethal round if needed.”

Vanden Avond explained his thought process in discharging a bean bag round at Anderson, stating, “My concern is for the safety of my partners … and because of his reaching back in the vehicle, every time he reaches down and comes up with something I don’t know if he’s gonna be coming out with a gun.”

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Several days later, while at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Anderson agreed to give a statement to BCA investigators. Anderson stated authorities told him to show his hands and so he said that is what he did.

“... I kept ‘em out there just kind of danglin’, but I kept on asking if I … can have a cigarette? Can I have a cigarette ...and they were like, I remember them saying come up here and you can have one and I was like ... I said, ‘No that’s not gonna happen,’” Anderson said. “And then I don’t remember anything. … I remember being pulled out of the car.”

The BCA agent asked Anderson specifically if he intended to get out of the car, and Anderson stated he honestly didn’t know and everything happened so fast. He stated he was trying to have a cigarette. When asked if he felt like he was given the opportunity to get out of the car, Anderson stated: “I don’t even really feel like I was given an opportunity to do much.”

The decision

Minnesota state law allows an officer to use reasonable force on a person without the other’s consent in effecting a lawful arrest, in the execution of legal process and enforcing an order of the court. Deadly force by an officer is justified, per state law, when protecting an officer from death or great bodily harm; to effect the arrest or capture or prevent escape of a person for whom the officer has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force.

“In this case, Deputy Vanden Avond used a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions within the scope of his duties,” Middendorf stated. “It is very unfortunate that Mr. Anderson was seriously hurt as a result of this incident. However, based on the evidence submitted to me, no criminal charges are warranted against Deputy Vanden Avond because the use of force on May 22 was lawful pursuant to Minnesota Statute 609.06.

“The evidence submitted to me establishes that Deputy Vanden Avond fired his less lethal weapon within the scope of his employment as a law enforcement officer in order to protect himself and the other officers from apparent death or great bodily harm.”

Middendorf added Anderson was given sufficient opportunities to obey the commands to get out of the vehicle, as the video showed. He also told authorities he had a gun and he kept reaching back inside of the vehicle.

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Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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