Suspect in custody after officer slain in West St. Paul
WEST ST. PAUL — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop, and authorities had a suspect in custody after a gun battle hours later.
Brian Fitch Sr., 39, got out of a minivan firing at officers Wednesday evening, St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos said. Police returned fire, striking Fitch and a woman who was with him, Paulos said.
Fitch's condition was unknown, Paulos said. The woman suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, and both were hospitalized.
A daylong manhunt had been underway for Fitch after the killing of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick. Patrick was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulling over a car just past the city border in West St. Paul in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, police said. He died later at Regions Hospital.
Police said Patrick was working alone when he pulled over the car, a green Pontiac Grand Am, for an unknown reason. They said they didn't know if there was a scuffle before the shooting. Several witnesses reported three gunshots.
Police said they were seeking Fitch, of South St. Paul or West St. Paul. They released a photo of Fitch and the car. Late Wednesday afternoon, St. Paul police announced in a tweet that the car had been found.
Patrick, a 19-year veteran and senior officer on the force of 17, is the first police officer slain in the line of duty in Mendota Heights, a St. Paul suburb of about 11,000. He is survived by a wife and two teenage children.
Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener called Patrick a "dedicated police officer and family man who absolutely adored his children."
"He cared deeply about the city of Mendota Heights," Aschenbrener said. "It's going to be a very tough time for the Mendota Heights Police Department."
A few feet from where officials announced Patrick's death, an American flag was at half-staff. Officers were already wearing black bands on their badges.
Chris O'Keefe, 51, of West St. Paul, said he saw police and paramedics giving a man CPR at the scene.
"Unbelievable" O'Keefe told The Associated Press as he stood in his yard. The shooting happened at an intersection near a gas station and a pizza shop surrounded by a quiet neighborhood of leafy trees and tidy homes. Numerous police cars remained at the scene more than two hours after the shooting, lights flashing, while yellow police tape cordoned off the intersection.
Kimberly Alley told the Star Tribune that when she pulled up near the intersection, a woman was on the side of the road, frantically trying to call police. Alley asked if she could help, and the woman told her a police officer had been shot.
A nurse was giving him chest compressions. Alley, a hospital radiology technician, checked for a pulse. She said there was none.
"A police officer came and he was trying to rouse him," Alley said. "But he wasn't coming to."
Mike Youness was sitting in his living room with his wife when he heard three gunshots. He went outside and walked about 120 yards to where a Mendota Heights police SUV was at the side of the road with its door open. He said he saw an officer on the ground with a head injury and a woman trying to revive him.
"She said it was futile," Youness told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "He was already gone."
A massive manhunt followed the shooting, with SWAT officers roaming the neighborhood. Local television carried pictures of officers stopping a green Grand Am just off Interstate 94 east of the city and handcuffing the driver, but police later said the incident was unrelated to Patrick's death.