St. Louis County sheriff's deputies were justified in killing a Hermantown man who fled officers on a motorcycle and later exchanged gunfire with law enforcement, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Deputies Jason Kuhnly and Troy Fralich "were placed in a situation which necessitated the use of deadly force" against 37-year-old Timothy Russell Majchrzak, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said in a news release.
Kuhnly, a five-year member of the force, shot Majchrzak, while Fralich, a 12-year veteran, intentionally struck the suspect with his squad car during the course of the confrontation near Stebner Road and Village Drive on May 4.
Majchrzak, who had a warrant out for his arrest, fled from a traffic stop and was later intercepted by Kuhnly near the Lakes Cinema and Skyline Lanes, according to the investigation. Squad car video released Wednesday shows Majchrzak fleeing on foot as the deputy attempts to apprehend him.
Majchrzak can be seen in the video producing the handgun and raising it to his own head before pointing it at the deputy and firing. Kuhnly returns fire, striking him multiple times.
Majchrzak, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, is seen in the video repeatedly falling to the ground but getting back up, with the deputy continuing to shoot. The incident ends with Fralich arriving on scene, striking him at a high rate of speed. Majchrzak was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted an investigation of the deputies' actions at the request of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.
The case was reviewed by retired Iron Range prosecutor Gordon Coldagelli and Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken. Rubin said he sought independent reviews from the two unaffiliated attorneys to avoid any conflict of interest as Troy Fralich is married to Jessica Fralich, who supervises Rubin's Virginia and Hibbing offices.
"It is unfortunate that Timothy Majchrzak lost his life," Hicken wrote in her report. "A family is left grieving. But given the grave threat of a suspect actively shooting in their direction, any reasonable peace officer would have seen the action that Deputy Kuhnly took as necessary to protect his own life. And a peace officer seeing his partner threatened as Deputy Fralich did would be required by duty to take similar action as he did in order to preserve a life.”
According to the reports:
Hermantown police officer Jon Enright was patrolling Midway Road when he clocked a motorcycle traveling at 75 mph in a 55 mph zone. He initiated a pursuit, but was forced to terminate the chase due to safety concerns as he was unable to gain ground on the motorcycle as it continued to speed past other vehicles.
Several deputies, including Kuhnly and Fralich, heard scanner reports from the Public Safety Building in Duluth. They responded to the area of the pursuit, searching for the suspect without lights or sirens activated.
Fralich relayed that he would look in the area of the Harley Davidson dealership and Lakes Cinema, while Kuhnly proceeded south on Stebner Road. Kuhnly then encountered Majchrzak, who matched the suspect description, walking along a house along Stebner Road, immediately behind the theater.
Kuhnly activated his lights and drove toward him, but Majchrzak ran across the street toward the Skyline Lanes parking lot. The deputy followed him by vehicle until he approached an embankment, where he continued on foot.
Kuhnly yelled out, "Stop, you're under arrest!" but Majchrzak would not comply with his orders. The suspect then retrieved the handgun, which he placed to his own head.
Kuhnly, who had drawn his own weapon, ordered Majchrzak to drop the gun. Instead, he pointed it at the deputy and fired a shot. Kuhnly returned a number of rounds, but realized they were not apparently having any effect on Majchrzak.
"Deputy Kuhnly stated that he was in fear for his life when he was firing and nothing was happening," Coldagelli wrote. "The suspect was not going down and not staying down. He stated the suspect kept coming up and the weapon kept coming up."
Kuhnly relayed to his partners that shots had been fired. Fralich, the first to assist, told investigators he intentionally struck Majchrzak at a high rate of speed, realizing there was "no doubt he was trying to kill my partner" and "all I had was my squad."
"At no time during the course of the incident does Majchrzak indicate or signal an intent to surrender or otherwise discontinue the gunfight with Deputy Kuhnly," Coldagelli wrote.
Majchrzak was knocked to the ground and the gun was thrown from his hand. Other deputies began performing CPR, but Majchrzak was pronounced dead at the scene after approximately 15-20 minutes.
A medical examiner later concluded that he sustained multiple gunshot wounds, with one to the arm and chest proving fatal. The documents do not precisely identify the number of shots fired in the exchange.
Toxicology reports indicated that Majchrzak had both amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
Along with the video from Kuhnly's squad, BCA investigators spoke with multiple witnesses who confirmed the general circumstances of the incident. Fralich was driving a spare squad car that was not equipped with a camera.
“The set of circumstances presented by this investigation fit as a justified use of force by each deputy involved," Hicken concluded. "As a prosecutor, I would not charge any deputy with a crime for their involvement on May 4."
Majchrzak had an extensive criminal record, with convictions including robbery, assault and multiple drug offenses. He also served a 70-month federal prison sentence for illegally possessing a semi-automatic rifle and three shotguns.
At the time of his death, he was wanted by authorities for failing to appear in court to face charges of violating a domestic-abuse order for protection. Warrants were issued in two separate cases in March.