The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating after police said a gunman shot and wounded several people at an apartment building in Stillwater and opened fire on responding police officers before they killed him.
Police were dispatched to the Curve Crest Villas around 2:30 p.m. Saturday for what was initially described as an unknown medical situation that turned into a shots-fired call.
“Officers were quickly informed that the caller was screaming and that there were multiple reports of gun shots inside the complex,” a statement from Police Chief Brian Mueller said. The suspect fired “many” rounds inside and outside of the building, hurting at least two or three people, he said. The extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known.
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Mueller said when police arrived on the scene, a man began firing at them with a handgun, hitting at least two squad cars, after which officers returned fire, “incapacitating the suspect.”
While police performed first aid, the man was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. No officers were hurt.
The apartment complex is close to a residential area, as well as several youth recreational facilities that were busy at the time, with hundreds of families and children nearby. Police instructed people in several nearby single-family homes to shelter in place briefly. Several natural gas lines were struck by bullets during the incident.
“This could have been much worse, if not for the response of our officers,” Mueller said, adding that he had asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent investigation, which is common in officer-involved shootings in Minnesota. Further releases of information will come from that agency.
The police chief did not comment on a motive or release the suspect’s name during a news conference Saturday night.
“I’m a parent. I’m a resident, and it’s very scary. I’m scared for what my officers faced,” Mueller said, his voice breaking. “I’m scared for what the residents faced. I’m proud of how they responded, but it definitely hits home. This isn’t something that happens in Stillwater.”
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Stillwater, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities, is a suburb about 15 miles east of St. Paul with about 20,000 residents.
Angela Schoenthaler, who lives in the building where the shooting took place, told KSTP-TV she was taking a nap when she heard the gunfire, checked on her kids and went outside to her balcony to see what was going on. She said she made eye contact with the gunman, who was in the parking lot as police were closing in.
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“The gentleman came around the corner, and he looked at me and looked at the cop, and then he started shooting at the cop, and then I got my kids down in the apartment,” she told the station. “When I came back to look, the officers had him shot and he was down. (They were) getting him into cuffs.”
Imran Ali, general counsel of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, praised the work of the officers.
“This, once again, illustrates the grave danger posed to law enforcement, communities, and the decisions that must be made, in a split second, to preserve life,” Ali said in a statement.