AMBER Alert ends in ‘accidental’ gunfire, sergeant disciplined

An AMBER Alert issued last July ended with a 2-year-old boy in the hands of the police officers who arrested his father. But FOX 9 has acquired police body camera video showing it didn’t go down peacefully. One officer opened fire and investigators say it was unnecessary.

More than three hours into negotiations with a man suspected of kidnapping his son, a Crow Wing County tactical team forced entry into a Baxter garage.

Gunfire came immediately, surprising some of the officers.

"What the heck was that?" you can hear one of them say in the body camera video.

It also came as a huge shock to the boy’s mother, who was standing alongside officers trying to get her ex to surrender.

"The whole conversation when I was out there was about his safety," Sabrina Saetre told FOX 9. "It was about my son's safety. And 'that's the most important thing."

Nobody was hit by the gunfire, but bullet holes in the passenger door and side view mirror hint at near misses. And with his screams, the 2-year-old boy made his fear audible.

"If they would've hit a gas can, this would've ended so different," Saetre said. "I don't even know if they would have made it out. It was so reckless."

On that morning, Saetre thought the gunfire was unnecessary. Crow Wing County investigators don’t disagree. They didn’t invite the BCA to investigate the shooting, but in a disciplinary notice to the sergeant whose AR-15 fired at least twice, they said there was no threat to him at the time.

"Nobody is disputing there was ‘unnecessary gunfire’ during the moments where a hostage rescue was taking place," said Capt. Adam Kronstedt in a statement to FOX 9. "The discharge of the firearm was deemed accidental, and occurred during a forced entry into an intentionally barricaded building. The information law enforcement had at the time of the incident, was that a child was being held hostage by a potentially armed individual, and negotiations with that individual were deteriorating."

The boy's mother isn't convinced.

"This was not an accidental shooting," Saetre said after viewing the video.

The sergeant said he didn’t remember pulling the trigger, according to the discipline notice.

"Something caught my gun," you could hear him say in the body camera video.

Investigators noted that "the safety being off and the trigger being pulled twice shows a combination of failures that does not commonly occur together."
The sergeant got a written warning and was removed from the tactical team for 30 days.

That's not nearly enough to the mother who heard her son’s trauma.

"I mean, my life was turned upside down in this one moment, and that guy got to go back to work," she said.

The boy’s father is facing charges including kidnapping. His next court date is in January.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story stated the Minnesota BCA investigated the shooting, but this case was not investigated by the BCA.