PLYMOUTH, Minn. (KMSP) - Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday he will not charge the Plymouth police officer involved in the shooting death of a man inside an Arby’s restaurant last July.
On July 23, 2015, Officer Amy Therkelsen responded to a report of a psychiatric issue at the Arby’s on Sixth Avenue S. in Plymouth, Minn. shortly after 8 p.m. When she arrived, Therkelsen found restaurant employees attempting to subdue 31-year-old Derek Wolfsteller. When Wolfsteller did not follow police commands, Therkelson used her Taser against him twice, but it was ineffective.
While struggling to handcuff him, Therkelsen and Wolfsteller ended up on the floor and he tried to take her gun, according to police. Therkelsen gained control of her gun and fatally shot Wolfsteller twice in the head.F
1 dead after officer-involved shooting at Arby's in Plymouth, Minn.
According to the Hennepin County attorney’s report, Wolfsteller was the one who called 911, saying “Hey coppers come and get me.” When asked if he is going to fight with police, he replies, "I don't know." He initially told police he had knives on him at the time, but later said he was mentally ill and had no weapons.
Wolfsteller’s grandparents told investigators their grandson had struggled with drug use and mental illness for years.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s office declined to charge Therkelsen in Wolfsteller’s death. In a statement, Freeman said it was reasonable for Therkelsen to use deadly force against Wolfsteller in order to protect herself and the other people in the restaurant.
“Officer Therkselsen attempted to use non-deadly force against a man having a psychotic episode and it did not slow him,” Freeman said in a statement. “She and three civilians were in a long, exhausting struggle with him and had both hands on her gun. When she was able to gain control of her gun it was reasonable for her to conclude she must shoot Mr. Wolfsteller in order to protect herself, the three employees and others in the restaurant.”
The attorney’s office said lab tests found Wolfsteller’s DNA on the gun holster and belt, confirming the officer’s story that he was trying to get her gun. In one of the squad car videos released by the attorney’s office, Therkelsen is heard on the police radio saying, “my gun,” and is later seen telling another officer “he almost had my gun.”
All the evidence used in the case, including dash cam videos, 911 calls and lab reports, are posted on the Hennepin County Attorney's website.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County sheriff’s office assisted with the investigation.
Plymouth Police Department statement
The Plymouth Police Department would like to thank Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and his office for their careful review of the officer involved shooting that occurred on July 23, 2015, and for their decision on this matter.
The Department would also like to thank the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office for their thorough investigation of this case. While the department is pleased with the findings, our collective thoughts are with the the Wolfsteller family and our care and ongoing concern remains for those officers who were involved in this tragic event.
In reviewing the County Attorney's findings, senior attorneys, Dave Brown, Al Harris and Amy Sweasy offered their careful and competent review of the BCA's investigation to illustrate the brutal encounter Officer Amy Therkelsen endured when she arrived at the scene to render service. Officer Therkelsen along with restaurant employees worked in tandem to help control Mr. Wolfsteller, but had no success. Officer Therkelsen’s lawful commands, her attempts to physically restrain Mr. Wolfsteller and the use of her Taser to subdue Mr. Wolfsteller all failed; leaving Officer Therkelsen in a hand-to-hand ground fight where Mr. Wolfsteller aggressively fought to remove Officer Therkelsen's firearm from her holster. Officer Therkelsen was able to regain control of her sidearm and fired her weapon in order to stop the attack.
All of the officers involved responded to this encounter as trained, in accordance to department policy and within the law. Their actions were reasonable and justified.
While we are moving forward from this event, it is important to recognize the void in the Wolfsteller’s family and the lasting impact on our personnel. As importantly, work is needed to remedy the many remaining issues within the mental healthcare system. Clearly, more resources are needed for those in crisis and for those who are managing severe mental illnesses. While our officers have received training in this area, more training, funding, and care facilities across the entire healthcare and criminal justice spectrum are needed.