MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The suspect in the killing of a Mendota Heights police officer was arrested Wednesday night following a shootout just blocks away from the Capitol building.
At a press conference, authorities said police apprehended 39-year-old Brian George Fitch Sr. after he opened fire on officers in St. Paul, near the area of Sycamore and Rice streets.
It happened after officers searching for Fitch saw him driving near the 30 block of East Sycamore, St. Paul police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Paulos said.
Fitch noticed the officers and tried to evade them by doing a U-turn in a parking lot. But officers cut him off, and shortly after Fitch opened fire.
Five officers from multiple agencies shot at Fitch, striking him several times, police sources said. His girlfriend was in the car, and she too was shot.
She has yet to be identified.
Officers arrested both Fitch and his girlfriend, and they were brought to Regions Hospital for treatment, police sources said. Both suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Authorities had sought Fitch, who has a lengthy criminal history, for most of Wednesday in connection to the shooting death of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick. Police had asked the public’s help in finding Fitch, and at the press conference officials said the public’s tips were a “phenomenal” help.
Patrick, a veteran officer of nearly two decades, suffered fatal gunshot wounds while performing a traffic stop just after 12 p.m. in the area of Dodd Road and Smith Avenue in West St. Paul. He died at Regions Hospital.
Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener said that the 47-year-old Patrick leaves behind a wife and two teenage children.
“Scott has worked here my entire career,” Aschenbrener said, adding: “He cared deeply about the city of Mendota Heights.”
Greg Reid was in a nearby building when Patrick was shot. He said he heard three gunshots, looked out the window and could immediately tell Patrick had suffered serious injuries.
Another witness said she saw Patrick lying in the street.
“Head injury, and blood on his shirt,” she said. “Very, very sad.”
Flags at Mendota Heights City Hall were lowered to half staff Wednesday in honor of Patrick, and Gov. Mark Dayton said he’s appalled by this tragic killing.
“On behalf of all Minnesotans, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues,” the governor said in a statement. “We pray that they be given strength and solace during this terrible time.”
A vigil for Patrick was held Wednesday night in a parking lot near the scene of the shooting. Hundreds from West St. Paul and Mendota Heights, which are both suburbs southwest of St. Paul, went to the vigil. Among them were Patrick’s family members.
The manhunt for Fitch led authorities to many communities, and even on a high-speed chase. Early in the afternoon, neighbors in a residential Mendota Heights neighborhood said they saw police and SWAT teams arrest three people in a house on Pond Circle West. Police have yet to say if those arrests are related to Patrick’s killing.
Later, police released a photo of a Pontiac Grand Am in connection to the officer’s death. Authorities found that car in the backyard of a St. Paul home on Robert Street. Officers set up a perimeter, searched the area, and abruptly left following reports of shots fired just north of the Capitol.
Police also arrested a man after he led them on a high-speed chase on Interstate 494 about three hours after Patrick’s death. The chase ended with a pit maneuver and the suspect’s car spinning out. More than a dozen officers approached the car with guns drawn. After the suspect was arrested, the State Patrol tweeted that the chase had no connection to Patrick’s killing. However, the State Patrol later deleted that tweet, and officials have yet to comment on the arrest.