No charges for officer who fatally shot man in 2017 Crystal standoff

New Hope Police Department Officer Benjamin Harty's badge, taken after the fatal officer-involved shooting in Crystal, Minnesota last November. (Photo credit: Hennepin County Attorney's Office) 

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has declined to file criminal charges against a New Hope, Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a man with a gun during a standoff in Crystal in 2017. 

Officer Benjamin Harty fatally shot 62-year-old Ronald Klitzka on Nov. 11, 2017, after Klitzka fired his gun at least twice during a standoff. 

According to the investigation by the Hennepin County sheriff’s office, on Nov. 6, 2017, Klitzka had gone to his brother’s house because he had not heard from him in a while. When he went inside the house, he found his brother dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Klitzka called police and was visibly upset when they arrived, reportedly saying he would kill himself. Officers took him to North Memorial Medical Center for evaluation. Medical records indicate he was not suicidal, but that he blamed himself for his brother’s death. He was ultimately discharged from the hospital. 

Four days later, officers were dispatched to Klitzka’s home on the 5100 block of Angeline Avenue North after Klitzka’s wife reported he had a gun and had told her to get out of the house. 

Officers arrived at the home and established a perimeter. Klitzka’s stepdaughter told police he was making threatening statements and saying he wanted police to shoot him. 

During this time, Klitzka made several phone calls to 911 and a hospice service, saying he was going to shoot everyone and that he wanted to be shot by police.  

Officers near the house could hear Klitzka and said he sounded “angry and erratic.” Officers also saw a red laser beam, which they believed was a laser sight on a gun, and heard him fire two to three shots in his garage. 

Officer Harty was a trained sniper on the New Hope SWAT unit. He moved into position south of Klitzka’s house, where he tracked Kltizka through the scope of his gun. 

Klitzka came out of the garage and pointed the red laser beam at Harty and other officers near him. Harty fired one shot at Klitzka, striking him in the head. 

Klitzka died at the scene. Investigators recovered three handguns near him. 

In his evaluation, Freeman said the evidence does not support criminal charges in this case. 

“However, this case is still very much a tragedy for all involved,” Freeman wrote. “It arose not from criminal intentions, but rather out of mental anguish associated with significant loss. Both the family of Ronald Klitzka and law enforcement attempted to provide him with assistance.” 

Freeman concluded the use of deadly force was “objectively reasonable in the face of death or great bodily harm.”