A trial date has been set for the fatal shooting of an Owatonna man that took place in Minneapolis last fall, but the murder weapon and several potentially incriminating statements will be kept out of court after a judge determined they were improperly obtained.
Travis Patrick Wade Leonard, 24, of Minneapolis, was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 24, 2020, slaying of 23-year-old Dylan Lattery of Owatonna. The incident took place inside Leonard's Minneapolis home.
Despite efforts by Leonard's defense team to dismiss the case for lack of probable cause, a jury trial has officially been scheduled for Jan. 24, 2022. Leonard's attorney on Friday filed a demand for a jury trial in Hennepin County District Court.
Last month, Judge Regina Chu denied the motion to dismiss the case and denied a motion to suppress statements Leonard made to law enforcement outside his residence the day of the incident.
The judge did, however, grant three motions to suppress other evidence in the case, including evidence obtained during a second search of Leonard's residence, evidence obtained during the second pat-search of Leonard, and statements Leonard made at City Hall.
According to the criminal complaint, police were called to Leonard's home after he reported that someone had broken into his house and that he had shot the intruder. Police found Lattery not breathing on the floor with two gunshot wounds, and a hatchet in his hand. Multiple searches of the home resulted in the recovery of a sheath for tothe hatchet outside Leonard's upstairs bedroom and Leonard's firearm on the closet floor, according to the report.
Police also reportedly found in the closet $13,000 in cash and a suitcase containing marijuana and THC wax in an adjacent room. According to court documents, digital scales and other drug paraphernalia were located throughout the house.
Leonard initially told police that he didn't know Lattery prior to the incident and that he was in his bedroom with his wife and child when they saw Lattery in the doorway, holding a hatchet and asking where the money was. Leonard allegedly described a fight where Lattery had the upper hand, but his wife reportedly told police that Leonard had Lattery pinned when she brought him his gun.
Leonard later admitted to knowing Lattery, stating he had previously sold him marijuana, according to the complaint. Leonard reportedly said he shot Lattery in the stomach and Lattery then told Leonard to "just end me now." He told police he then shot Lattery in the back of the head and put the hatchet in Lattery's hand to make it look like he was still a threat, according to the report.
An autopsy report found Lattery had been shot once in the middle of his back and once in the back of the head.
According to the judge, in the motion to dismiss on lack of probable cause, the attorney did not argue that the underlying charges lack probably cause. Instead, the judge said the argument was that the use of deadly force was legally justified, which is an issue for the trial court.
The judge also ruled that Leonard's statements to law enforcement outside of his home are admissible. While the defense team argued that they should be suppressed because Leonard was not read his rights, Chu denied the motion because at the time of the statements Leonard was not in custody, therefore a Miranda warning was not required.
One of the suppressed pieces of evidence included the second search of the second floor of the home, was a handgun found near the closet in the bedroom, and believed to be the murder weapon. The judge determined that an initial sweep ensured the emergency was over and that investigating officers were safe. The judge concluded that the second search was "impermissible and the gun must be suppressed."
The judge also determined that the second pat-search of Leonard by officers, which resulted in the seizure of his cell phone, was improper.
The final piece of suppressed evidence, as determined by the judge, are statements Leonard made to investigators at City Hall. According to court documents, the state argued that Leonard's request for an attorney when he was brought to an interview room was premature. The judge disagreed and said there is "no doubt" that Leonard was in custody once he was placed in the room. The judge also concluded that the officer failed to inform the investigators of Leonard's request for counsel. These statements include Leonard admitting to knowing Lattery and placing the hatchet in his hand after the fatal gunshots.
Leonard is currently under electronic home monitoring.