MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Pine County Attorney’s Office will not charge the deputy who shot and killed a 25-year-old man who led authorities on a chase in October.
The attorney’s office released their decision Friday afternoon, saying Deputy Josh Pepin’s shooting of Anthony Legato was “necessary to protect himself and others from apparent death or great bodily harm.”READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: UK Variant Outbreak Linked To Youth Sports In Carver County, Officials Recommend 2-Week Pause
According to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation, the incident began with a call to Pine County Dispatch about a domestic dispute at the Grand Casino Hotel in Hinckley.
Legato allegedly checked into the hotel under another name and was there with his girlfriend, who had a no-contact order against him due to an open felony case.
The BCA said Legato got angry with his girlfriend for turning up the heat and an argument ensued. Legato allegedly hit the woman in the leg and held a gun against her cheek. She screamed and opened the hotel room door to try and get help.
Legato left the room and fled the hotel in a Ford Expedition with a trailer holding a motorcycle attached.
The girlfriend told hotel security Legato assaulted her, and that he had weapons and methamphetamine with him. Later, a search of Legato’s backpack post-shooting would turn up two pistols, a meth pipe and meth.
She also told security “that if law enforcement is involved, he [Legato] will use the gun.” That information was relayed to dispatch during the initial call and told to deputies over radio.
Authorities began a search for Legato and eventually found him on County Highway 61. The BCA report states Legato led authorities on a pursuit, driving into oncoming traffic for much of the chase, forcing other vehicles off the road and reaching speeds of 85 to 90 mph.
At one point during the chase, Legato called 911, saying his “car won’t stop and the police are right behind me.” He told 911 he “needed help.”
Eventually, Legato drove onto Interstate 35, still heading into oncoming traffic. Chief Deputy Paul Widenstrom gave an order to terminate the chase.
While Legato drove the wrong way in the northbound side of the freeway, Pepin followed on the southbound side.READ MORE: More Than 1 Million Wisconsin Residents Have Been Vaccinated
Legato eventually pulled to the shoulder and got out of his car, apparently trying to remove the motorcycle on his trailer. Pepin turned around and headed north to where Legato stopped. When Legato saw Pepin’s squad car, with lights and sirens on, he “hurried from the trailer to the front door of the Expedition and got back behind the wheel,” according to the BCA report.
Pepin pulled his weapon and yelled at Legato, who ignored the deputy and pulled into oncoming traffic. Pepin fired four shots at Legato, one of them striking him.
Legato’s vehicle struck another car and came to a stop. He got out, took a couple of steps and fell face-first onto the highway.
The BCA report states authorities “thought [Legato] was still alive because he tensed up when they put handcuffs on him,” but he “was unresponsive after the handcuffs were secured.”
Lifesaving measures were attempted until medics arrived. An autopsy showed a “high level of methamphetamine” in Legato’s body.
The attorney’s office said Pepin’s actions were justified because “an objectively reasonable officer would believe that it was necessary to protect the officer or another from great bodily harm or death.”
“[Legato] posed a substantial and deadly danger,” the attorney’s office said. “Had Deputy Pepin not acted, there was a high probability [Legato] would have killed others.”
Last month, Legato’s family led a protest at the BCA in St. Paul, expressing frustration at the lack of information they say they received about his death.
“Why are we even having to fight to find out what happened to our son?” Michael Legato, Anthony’s father, said.
“How can they not acknowledge the families and what they’re going through, no matter what happened or what caused it?”MORE NEWS: Faces Of COVID: Daryl Kruger, 82, Loved His Grandkids And The MN Twins
At the time, the BCA said it had had several contacts with the Legatos and their attorney throughout the investigation.
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