North St. Paul shooting: 'Very intense, very violent'by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
North St. Paul, Minn. — The North St. Paul police officer killed in the line of duty this week was shot with his own gun. That's what state officials said they found after a three-day investigation into the death of officer Rick Crittenden.
Investigators say they've pieced together the sequence of deadly events inside a North St. Paul apartment Monday morning.
Tim O'Malley, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Aprehension, says Stacey Terry and her 15-year-old daughter had called police just before 9 a.m. The two feared that Terry's estranged husband, Devon Dockery, 34, might be waiting for them in Terry's apartment.
She'd had at least four restraining orders against Dockery, and had left her home overnight. She had already seen him earlier in the holiday weekend, on Saturday, and had called police for help.
It turned out Dockery was in the apartment on Monday morning. Investigators say as soon as Terry opened her door, with Crittendon and Maplewood police officer Julie Olson nearby, Dockery rushed at her with a flaming rag wrapped around his hand.
Investigators say Crittenden pushed Terry and her daughter out of harm's way, and a hand-to-hand struggle began in the living room of their apartment.
"The officers did not flinch. They did not retreat," said North St. Paul Police Chief Tom Lauth.
He said Crittenden and Olson acted heroically.
"Officer Crittenden put himself between that charging person and the two people who would be victims and pushed them out of the way, making himself susceptible to harm, in danger's way," said Lauth.
But the struggle just inside the apartment door turned deadly in seconds, according to the BCA's O'Malley.
"At one point, Dockery removed officer Crittenden's gun from his holster and shot officer Crittenden in the head. At that point, Dockery turned officer Crittenden's gun toward officer Olson, aimed it at her, and the two of them engaged in a gun battle," said O'Malley. "Both officer Olson and Dockery fired numerous times, Dockery was struck five times, and Olson was struck once."
Investigators think the entire incident lasted less than a minute.
"That was a very fast-paced, very intense, and very violent battle," said O'Malley.
Investigators found 14 shells fired from the 40-caliber, semi-automatic handguns carried by the two officers. No one else was hit by the crossfire.
O'Malley says another Maplewod police officer arrived and helped disarm Dockery. Emergency medical personnel arrived within minutes, but both Dockery and Crittenden were dead.
Olson was struck in her shooting arm by what might have been a bullet fragment. At least one bullet also hit an ammunition magazine Olson carried on her duty belt.
O'Malley and Maplewood Police Chief Dave Thomalla hailed Olson's courage and her cool -- literally under fire. O'Malley said without her quick response, there may have been even more victims.
"The estranged wife, on Labor day and again this afternoon, has asked the investigators in this case to pass on to officer Crittenden's family, and officer Olson directly, her deep gratitude for her actions that morning, and express her gratitude for the fact that they saved her life," he said.
O'Malley said the investigation into the incident will continue. He says toxicology tests won't be available for either Crittenden or Dockery for several weeks.
Crittenden, 57, was a nine-year veteran of the North St. Paul police department.
He had a son, a stepdaughter and four grandchildren, according to Paul Ebert, a longtime friend and former Chisago County deputy, who spoke for Crittenden's family in North St. Paul this afternoon.
Ebert is a former neighbor and hunting partner of Crittenden. He said he had seen the measure of Crittenden's character long before Monday's tragic shooting.
"He was the kind of guy that would step up to make sure that everything was right for someone, and would ensure someone else's safety before his own," said Ebert.
Funeral services for Crittenden will be held Friday, Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. The city of North St. Paul has established a Richard Crittenden Memorial Fund at Anchor Bank Heritage in North St. Paul.
- All Things Considered, 09/09/2009, 5:23 p.m.