MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Dakota County Attorney’s Office says two officers were justified in the fatal April shooting of a 40-year-old man who investigators say exchanged gunfire with police after fleeing a traffic stop in Coon Rapids.
John Fairbanks, of Cass Lake, died on April 18 after being shot at by Anoka County Deputy Sheriff Christopher Vitek and Coon Rapids Police Officer Alex Hattstrom, according to an investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Investigators say Fairbanks fled a traffic stop and shot at the officers who were running after him, one of them being Hattstrom, who fired back. It’s unclear if Hattstrom’s bullets hit Fairbanks.
The chase led police and responding forces to a neighborhood where a police dog found Fairbanks in a backyard. Pursing officers, one of which was Vitek, saw Fairbanks with a gun and told him to drop it. When he did not drop his gun, Vitek fired three shots, with at least two of the bullets hitting Fairbanks. He died at the scene.
After reviewing the BCA report, which included body camera and other footage, Anoka County Attorney James Backstrom concluded this week that both Vitek and Hattstrom were justified in shooting at Fairbanks.
“Although I have concluded that the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers was legally justified this instance, any loss of life is a tragic occurrence, and I wish to express my sympathy to the family and friends of John Duane Fairbanks.”
Under Minnesota law, deadly force is justified in the line of duty when police feel they are protecting themselves or the public from apparent death or great bodily harm.
It is also justified to prevent the escape of someone believed to have committed a crime involving to the use or threat of deadly violence.