HIBBING — Two years ago, Hibbing police responded to a call of a possible assault involving a firearm on the 2900 block of Third Street East. That is when Capt. Kurt Metzig and Officers Dan Mooers and Cody Loewen arrived on scene to find a 25-year-old Rochester man holding a .357 Magnum revolver while standing over an injured man. What happened next would change the lives of everyone involved.
The gunman named Che Nathaniel Jones ignored officer commands to drop his weapon and ran around the house and into the alley. He tried to cross the street but fell to the ground. He ignored additional commands, climbed to his feet, stepped into the middle of the alley and pointed the gun at Loewen and Metzig. Both officers reported hearing a gunshot and returned fire on Jones.
On Wednesday evening, Hibbing Police Chief Steve Estey retold the series of events to the City Council. “At this point, Loewen and Metzig discharged their service weapons and the suspect was no longer a threat,” he said. “The officers then quickly administered first aid to the suspect who ultimately lived.”
Estey retold the events as part of his presenting the three officers with Medal of Honor awards for bravery and courage Wednesday evening at a Hibbing City Council meeting. “January 13, 2017, is a day these three officers we are recognizing today will never forget,” Estey told councilors. “It is an incident as law enforcement officers you train for and think about, but never want to be involved with.”
At the time of the incident, then-Hibbing Police Chief Maryann Cooper said that “we had no doubt that the actions of our officers were justified” and “we never questioned their actions.”
St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin would later find Loewen and Metzig “were completely in compliance with and justified” by state statute for shooting the man three times to his right chest, left arm and left cheek. “They had reason to believe that he had already fired one shot from his handgun, and having used the handgun to assault an unarmed citizen, was fleeing police officers in a heavily populated residential neighborhood in Hibbing,” Rubin then wrote in his finding. “By any reasonable standard, Jones constituted a threat to the safety of the public.”
In May 2018, Jones entered a Norgaard plea agreement to felony counts of first- and second-degree assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The specific type of plea allowed Jones to maintain he was unable to recall all the facts of the incident due to intoxication while acknowledging there was sufficient evidence to convict him. He had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 a short time after the incident when treated for his gunshot wounds at a hospital in Duluth.
The following month, Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Mark M. Starr sentenced Jones to serve 10 years in prison. He is currently at Minnesota Correctional Facility Oak Park Heights. He is expected to be released April 2024.
As for the officers, Loewen and Metzig retired from the police department. Yet Metzig has since joined up with the Hibbing Fire Department. Mooers is now employed with the Duluth Police Department.
At City Hall, Estey awarded the officers with what he felt was a long-overdue award. “If it was not for these three officers’ quick response and professionalism this incident could have ended far worse,” he said. “Not only did the officers help the victim on scene, but if the suspect was not quickly apprehended at the time, he could have caused more bodily harm or death on other citizens in the community.”