EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (KMSP) - An Eden Prairie police officer who accidentally shot a man in the arm, following a high-speed chase, blames the mistake on the “high stress” of the situation and “muscle memory” from training 20 days before the shooting.
The shooting happened on June 20, 2015. Sergeant Lonnie Soppeland had been pursuing Matthew Hovland-Knase at speeds above 110 miles per hour, according to police reports. At one point, Hovland-Knase pulled the motorcycle over and Soppeland emerged from his squad car with his gun drawn.
In video of the shooting, exclusively obtained by Fox 9, there is the sound of a gun shot, followed by Soppeland uttering expletives, and Hovland-Knase moaning and saying “I’m bleeding.” Within seconds of the shooting, Soppeland gathers medical supplies and provides first aid. He also apologizes.
“Oh, you actually shot me, didn’t ya? Hovland-Knase asks. “I’m not going to say anything right now, but was not intentional. I can tell you that,” Soppeland replies. “I know it wasn’t,” says Hovland-Knase.
Hovland-Knase was later convicted of fleeing an officer, according to court records.
RAW DASH CAM VIDEO (Warning: Strong language)
Soppeland was investigated by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Three days after the shooting, Soppeland told a detective, “As I was giving commands, I drew my firearm with my right hand, I planned to steady it with my left hand. When my hands made contact, the firearm discharged once unintentionally. It was not my conscious choice...I could feel the effect of the adrenaline.”
The detective asked whether firearm training 20 days before the shooting, when Soppeland fired 50 to 100 rounds, was a factor. Soppeland answered, “Yes, I feel the muscle memory from that recent training of squeezing the trigger contributed to the unintentional discharge during a high stress situation.”
Several people familiar with law enforcement firearm training told Fox 9 they had not heard of other accidental shootings partially blamed on muscle memory from training, but did say that the high stress of a chase can be a factor.
“I can't overemphasize after a high speed chase that is the highest level of stress recorded for police officers,” said John Caile, who has provided firearms training to law enforcement in Minnesota. “I'm not going to second guess the officer. But generally speaking, until you're ready to fire, your finger is along side the slide or frame of the gun. It may very well have been, but in that situation, he could easily not have been aware his finger was resting on the trigger.”
Soppeland was on administrative leave during the investigation, but is now back to work at the Eden Prairie Police, where’s he’s worked for eleven years. In training records provided to Fox 9, Soppeland has received “excellent” evaluations.
Statement from Eden Prairie Police Department
On Saturday, June 20 at approximately 3 a.m., Eden Prairie Police Sergeant Lonnie Soppeland initiated a traffic stop, which led to a pursuit and arrest in the area of Eden Prairie Road and North Lund Road. During the incident, Soppleand’s duty weapon was discharged, striking the suspect in the arm.
Sergeant Soppeland, who has been employed by the Department since 2005, was assigned to administrative duties while a full investigation of the incident was completed by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Based on the findings of the investigation, no further disciplinary action was taken and Soppleand has returned to regular duties with the Eden Prairie Police Department.
All inquiries related to the incident and the investigation should be directed to Lieutenant Todd Turpitt with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office.