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Father of Woman Killed in Hwy 212 Shooting Considers Lawsuit

Updated: 02/14/2014 8:00 AM
Created: 02/13/2014 5:19 PM KSTP.com
By: Beth McDonough

The father of Dawn Pfister says officers used excessive force when they opened fire, killing his daughter and her boyfriend, Matthew Serbus, on Highway 212 in Eden Prairie last Friday.

Pfister's dad, Michael Kennedy, told KSTP he's considering suing for what he calls the wrongful death of his daughter. He says the incident raises the question - when is force by officers reasonable or excessive?

Kennedy now lives in Texas. He told KSTP over the phone, "All I want is justice for her." That's why he's after more answers. Why did officers shoot and kill his daughter in a deadly Highway 212 encounter instead of shooting to wound or using non-lethal force, like a Taser?

"She was no threat to all of those officers," Kennedy said. "There's nothing they can do to convince me that she could hurt any of them with a knife when they all stand there with bulletproof vests, guns and cars between them."

The BCA, the state's top law enforcement agency, released the officers' version of the violence Wednesday, revealing Pfister and her boyfriend Serbus were armed with a knife. 

A knife is considered a lethal weapon, according to Mylan Masson. She runs a law enforcement training program.

Like many, Masson watched the incident unfold on traffic cameras. In life and death situations like this, officers consider "Rule 21." It's a generally-accepted standard that officers don't let an armed suspect within 21 feet of them because a suspect can cover the distance faster than most officers can draw a gun from their holster. "It appears on the video this suspect was right up on the front of the car, right where the officer was, so you know that was less than 21 feet."

There's also a rule of continuum force, which means an officer needs to stay a level ahead of a suspect, meaning you don't bring a knife to a knife fight - you bring a gun.

The four officers are on administrative leave. When the BCA is done with its investigation, the report will be turned over to the Hennepin County Attorney's office for review to see if the officers' actions warrant criminal charges or if the shootings were justified.


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