Le Sueur County Sheriff Brett Mason announced Friday, Oct. 16 that an investigation into an April officer involved shooting in Le Sueur County was completed and the officers involved were deemed to have used their firearms appropriately.
The investigation of the shootout, just north of Manakto, along the Minnesota River, off of Hwy. 169, went go to the Le Sueur County Attorney’s Office for review and potential charges, because although the situation started with a robbery in Blue Earth County, by the time the suspect was shot down on the river, he was in Le Sueur County.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) identified four law enforcement personnel who discharged their firearms during the officer involved shooting incident. One of the officers is a deputy with the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office. All four were on standard administrative leave.
Deputy Paul Biederman, of the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office, has been in law enforcement for 15 years.
Lieutenant Jeremy Brennan, of the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office, has been in law enforcement for 19 years.
Officer Chris Hendrickson, of the North Mankato Police Department, has been in law enforcement for 20 years.
Deputy James Othoudt, of the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office, has been in law enforcement for 13 years.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man who died during the incident as Austin Dean Heights, 24, no permanent address. Heights died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The incident occurred on the Minnesota River within Le Sueur County on April 18. Heights reportedly entered a convenience store and proceeded to the restroom.As he exited the restroom, he was allegedly holding a .22 caliber rifle and carrying a duffle bag. Heights proceeded to steal some merchandise, exit the store and flee towards Kiwanis Park. Officers with the Mankato Department of Public Safety encountered Heights in a raft with two long guns visible. Heights ignored orders from officers to come ashore and began to paddle Northbound on the Minnesota River.
Heights then encountered a Minnesota conservation officer and a Blue Earth County Sherrif’s Office deputy that were on the river in a DNR Watercraft. The deputy identified himself and advised Heights to show his hands. At this point, Heights allegedly raised a firearm and fired upon the deputy and conservation officer. As other law enforcement watercraft arrive in the area Heights fires upon them on multiple occasions.
Up to this point, Heights had allegely stolen from a convenience store with an uncased firearm in hand, ignored commands from officers to come ashore and fired upon three law enforcement watercraft.
Heights reportedly continued to paddle northbound on the river, where he eventually came ashore on the East bank of the Minnesota River in Le Sueur County. Heights then began to disembark with the two long guns toward a heavily wooded area with nearby residences, according to the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office release. Given Heights reported criminal behavior, failure to respond to commands from law enforcement and the multiple rounds fired upon law enforcement, deadly force was deemed necessary to protect other law enforcement officers and civilians from great bodily harm or death.
After extensive review, Le Sueur County Attorney Brent Christian determined that the four officers that discharged their weapons were justified and authorized under state statute 609.066. Therefore, no criminal charges against the involved officers was supported.