Review says Duluth officer justified in shooting of teenby Bob Kelleher, Minnesota Public Radio
Duluth, Minn. — A Duluth police officer who shot and killed a teenager attacking the officer's squad car has been cleared after an investigation determined the use of deadly force was justified.
At a news conference yesterday, Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay described what started as a routine night for police.
Officer Jeff Keast helped break up a party and outdoor bonfire. One of the people at the party, 17-year-old Joseph Carl, known as Joey, was tested at a blood alcohol level of 0.105 -- well above what would be legal for driving.
Chief Ramsay says the youth was cited for underage consumption and officer Keast drove Carl home, leaving him in his father's custody.
"This is a scenario officers deal with nightly," Ramsay said. "There was nothing unusual up to this point."
Soon after, Keast is called back to the same residence when calls begin coming into police of yelling, broken glass and reports that Carl was breaking windows. The investigation report cites multiple witnesses saying Carl was repeatedly swearing and saying "stupid pig" and "c'mon pigs--call all your other ones."
The squad car video shows Joey Carl emerging from between parked cars, bat in hand. He looks big and strong, with large forearms.
"He just, uh, he just hit my squad with a bat," Keast is heard saying on video released from his squad car.
Ramsay said police are trained in a situation like this to de-escalate the tension -- in this case to get away. Keast backed his car more than 200 feet down the street with the boy in pursuit, bat in hand.
But Keast's squad car gets stuck, wedged against a parked vehicle, and Carl again strikes, shattering glass in the windshield which blocks a clear camera view.
Ramsay described what happened next, just off camera: "Carl approaches the driver's side of the squad car. You can hear officer Keast ordering him to put it down. Carl smashes the driver's side window out, and knocks it out covering Officer Keast in glass. And, he reloads his bat, at which time Officer Keast fires one round."
Glass shatters, and Keast radios the dispatcher: "Shots fired. Shots fired, I shot him."
The boy is struck by a single bullet in his side.
Keast exits his vehicle and begins administering first aid. Carl soon stops breathing and CPR fails to revive him.
The video was key in determining whether deadly force was justified. Scott County Attorney Pat Ciliberto was asked to review the shooting. His report was released Wednesday, concluding that Keast appropriately utilized the used of deadly force pursuant to Minnesota Statues.
Ciliberto says the fact that Carl was hit in the side was consistent with Keast's version of events, that he shot as Carl was winding up for another swing of the bat. The toxicology report indicated Carl had a blood alcohol level slightly higher than the original test, at 0.115. He also tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Chief Ramsay said Keast is returning to active duty, working the day shift this Friday. But Ramsay notes that officers involved in similar shootings often quit a police force within five years of the incident. He says the shooting will be hard on Keast.
Ramsay also says thoughts and prayers go out to the officers involved, the Carl family, and witnesses from the neighborhood.
- Morning Edition, 09/16/2010, 7:35 a.m.