Hennepin County attorney says use of force justified in 2019 St. Louis Park officer-involved shooting

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday he would not file charges against a police officer involved in a deadly shooting in St. Louis Park, saying the officer's use of force was justified.

Freeman said Officer Samuel Heffernan was within the law when he shot Matthew Neil Tuhkanen on Jan. 19, 2019.

According to a release from Freeman's office, Heffernan and officers were called to an apartment building on the 2700 block of Louisiana Court after Tuhkanen's girlfriend called 911. Tuhkanen had three arrest warrants for a parole violation in Anoka County at the time. 

The county attorney's office said as Heffernan and other officers were watching the building, they saw a man run out the back door of the apartment. After the police yelled at the individual, he ran back inside.

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The officers were later able to locate Tuhkanen inside the bedroom of an apartment.

The county attorney's office said Tuhkanen was agitated and yelling at the officers during the encounter. At one point, Tuhkanen leaned into an area the officers couldn't see. The officers said it looked like he was going to pick something up from the area. Heffernan then fired four shots, which struck Tuhkanen.

"Minnesota law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions allow police officers to use deadly force if a reasonable officer would conclude that he or others were in danger of death or great bodily harm from the suspect," Freeman said in a statement. "In this case, because Tuhkanen appeared to be reaching for something in an area the officers could not see, Heffernan was justified in shooting. It was only later that police could determine that Tuhkanen had no weapons."