Rochester Police officer cleared in fatal shooting of man wielding ax

Body camera video from July 30, when a Rochester Police officer fatally shot a man armed with an ax.  (Rochester Police Department / Supplied)

A Rochester police officer who fatally shot a man armed with an ax will not face charges, the Mower County Attorney's Office concluded. 

The attorney's office reviewed the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's (BCA) investigation of the incident and did not find evidence to support criminal charges against officer Michael Bottcher for fatally shooting Joshua Hippler on July 30, a news release says

"In these incredibly unfortunate situations that force officers to make split-second decisions, the officer did what he had to do and what he was trained to do for his own personal safety and the safety of the public. These situations are very stressful and taxing on the officer, the agency and the community. Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. Hippler," Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin said in the release. 

What led to the police shooting

Before the shooting, at 11 p.m. on July 29, a man with an ax robbed a Domino's Pizza in Rochester and then fled in a van, Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelson said in a letter to the BCA. At about 12:45 a.m. on July 30, Bottcher saw the van from the robbery, witnessed the driver making an illegal turn, and then stopped the vehicle on the southbound ramp from Highway 63 to Highway 52.

The driver, identified as Hippler, jumped out of the van swinging an ax and began walking toward Bottcher, who told Hippler to drop the ax, according to Rochester Police body camera video that was released on Friday. (Warning: It is graphic.)

Hippler then began zigzagging toward Bottcher, swinging the ax and yelling at Bottcher to kill him, the video shows. Bottcher walked backward and again told Hippler to drop the ax before he shot Hippler. 

Other officers quickly arrived at the scene and began providing medical aid to Hippler, but he died. 

"In this case the facts show that Officer Bottcher clearly acted reasonably when using deadly force. He reasonably believed it was necessary to protect his life and the lives of others arriving in the area," Nelson wrote in the letter to the BCA.