COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) – Police are trying to figure out why Chevel Richard chased down his wife and shot her to death before taking his own life.
It happened about 3:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in Cottage Grove outside of a strip mall.
Investigators say he had a record of domestic violence that included an order of protection filed by his wife, Tensia Richard. The couple had two children – a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old.
According to police, Tensia Richard told authorities last year that she feared her husband would snap at some point.
That appears to be what happened on Thursday.
Tensia had only been an Anytime Fitness member for a week. According to the gym, she worked out there for about half an hour Thursday before police say she was summoned outside. She found her husband Chevel waiting.
“He was carrying a .45-caliber, high-point semi-automatic and shooting multiple rounds at Tensia as she tried to flee him,” said police chief Craig Woolery.
Police say Tensia ran into the Jimmy John’s two doors down — that’s where she died of gunshot wounds. Chevel was also found inside Jimmy John’s. Police believe he shot himself. He died later at the hospital.
Investigators say in June of 2011, Tensia took out an order for protection against her husband following a domestic abuse incident.
“She felt fearful and described to the officers at the scene that she thought there could be a snapping point with him,” Woolery said.
But by August the order was dismissed, and the two were back together. Despite their reunion, police say Tensia and Chevel were most recently separated, and she was in the process of filing for divorce.
As part of their investigation, police are looking at surveillance video from Anytime Fitness and Jimmy John’s.
Police found a long letter in Chevel’s apartment after the shooting, not addressed to anyone in particular. Authorities say Chevel comes across as despondent in that letter.
Understanding lethality assessment protocol
Cottage Grove police said during Thursday’s news conference that in June of last year they followed Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) that showed Chevel was capable of killing his wife.
Washington County has been using the protocol for more than a year now. LAP consists of 11 questions that can trigger a referral to a domestic abuse support group.
“The officer will sit down with the victim at a scene of a domestic incident if it involves an intimate partner relationship,” said Karen Oleson, Legal Advocate Lead for Tubman, a domestic violence advocacy center. “The officer will then tell the victim that he has a series of questions that he would like to ask.”
Here is the list of questions from National Association of Counties website:
1. Has he/she ever used a weapon against you/threatened you with a weapon?
2. Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children?
3. Do you think he/she might try to kill you?
4. Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get one easily?
5. Has he/she ever tried to choke you?
6. Is he/she violently or constantly jealous, or does he/she control most of your daily activities?
7. Have you left him/her or separated after living together or being married?
8. Is he/she unemployed?
9. Has he/she ever tried to kill himself/herself?
10. Do you have a child that he/she knows is not his/hers?
11. Does he/she follow or spy on your or leave threatening messages?
Oleson says all the questions are based on factors that were present in domestic violence homicides that have occurred in the past. Oleson believes the questions have saved lives and it’s resulted in more referrals for orders of protection.
“I really do believe it is helping,” said Oleson
Once police do the assessment, victims can seek help. In the Cottage Grove case, Tensia issued a protective order in June 2011 against Chevel, but it was lifted the following August after the couple apparently got back together.
“We want to let victims know that no matter what choices they make at any point, we are always here for them,” Oleson said.