ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A Wisconsin man faces charges for pointing a loaded gun in the face of a St. Paul police officer.
Officer Michael Tschida approached 34-year-old shoplifting suspect James Frei in the entry way of the Wal-Mart store on University Avenue in St. Paul.
The encounter lasted only seconds, but long enough for Frei to point a gun at the officer. He then led police on a high speed chase.
“As you can see by the photos, the gun was pointed inches from the officer’s face,” said St. Paul Police Public Information Officer Paul Paulos.
Surveillance cameras captured the tense moments between officer and suspect.
“A truly a frightening case that underscores the danger that police officers face on a daily basis,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Investigators say Frei was trying to get out the Wal-Mart with stolen clothes and electronics.
Tschida confronted Frei in the entry way of the store.
“The defendant pulled out a handgun, turned and pointed it inches away from Officer Tschida’s face,” Choi said. “Officer Tschida slapped the gun away from his face, spun away and drew his own firearm, Frei then fled the store.”
According to the criminal complaint, Frei got into a pickup truck in the parking lot.
That’s when Tschida opened fire, hitting the truck several times.
“I heard pop, pop, pop or something similar,” said one witness. “And then I heard a bunch of people screaming, and I knew something was wrong.”
Witnesses said they saw Frei take off with police following closely behind.
The eight-mile chase took police down University Avenue. Frei pointed his gun at officers from his truck’s window during the pursuit.
Officers caught up with Frei after he rammed into a parked SUV in the 1600 block of Edmund Avenue and tried to run for it.
Police arrested Frei and recovered his loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson at the scene.
Choi says Frei faces three felony charges for being a felon in possession of a firearm, second-degree assault of an officer with a gun and fleeing police.
If convicted, he could face more than 20 years in prison.
Tschida was working security at the Wal-Mart. Officers like him are contracted out by companies to provide security, off-duty, while wearing uniform.
It’s allowed by the department.
Tschida, a 5-year veteran of the force, is on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting.