Body-cam video footage released in fatal officer-involved shooting in Stillwater

Keaton Larson was bleeding from his neck and carrying a razor blade in one hand and a large kitchen knife in the other when police officers arrived at his house in Stillwater in November.

Body-worn camera footage released Wednesday by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting on Nov. 21 shows Larson, 22, walking slowly down his front walk wearing a dark shirt and underwear. His feet are bare.

Stillwater police officer Hunter Julien, who was not wearing his body-worn camera, can be heard on other officers’ videos engaging with Larson for about 10 minutes.

“Drop the knife. We’re here to help you, man,” says Julien, a five-year veteran of the department. “Keaton, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to help you. I’ve been where you’re at, man. I’ve had really hard times in my life, and I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I did, and I’m really glad I stayed alive.”

Larson later can be seen throwing something on the ground and switching the black-handled knife from his left hand to his right hand; a metal razor blade from a utility knife was found in the grass in his front yard.

“Throw that one to the side,” Julien says in the video. “Throw it aside, brother. We can help you. The police aren’t bad, and I don’t want to have to hurt you, OK? Just do me a favor, man, just throw that knife down. Your life is going to change for the better if you do.”

Julien: “I don’t ever want to have to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I just want to help people. That’s the reason I became a cop.”

In the video footage, Julien can be heard continuing to talk to Larson, asking if he wanted to talk to anyone and sharing stories about his own personal struggles. Suddenly, Larson lunges toward the officers in the street.

“No! Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” the officers can be heard shouting, as Larson pursues them into the street with the knife in hand.

Three officers discharged their Tasers at the running Larson, “all to no avail,” according to a Washington County attorney’s office review of the shooting included in a 581-page report released Wednesday by the BCA.

They were: Laura McBroom, a one-year veteran of the Stillwater Police Department; Brian Tennessen, a two-year veteran of the Oak Park Heights Police Department, and Brittany Lepowsky, who has been with the Bayport Police Department for two years.

In an interview with BCA agents, Julien said he attempted to get away from Larson, but “tripped and ended up on his back.”

“Julien stated he was scared, being ‘charged at’ by Larson, and thinking about his newborn child,” according to the BCA report. “(He) stated he continued to tell Larson that he did not want to shoot him. (He) advised while he was laying on his back he felt Larson was going to jump on top of him with the knife still in his hand and as a result he fired his weapon.”

He fired twice and hit Larson once in the chest. According to other officers on scene, Larson “was inside of 10 feet from Julien” when the officer fired.

Larson was handcuffed while lying on the ground; the handcuffs were removed before he was put in an ambulance, according to the video footage. He was taken to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, where he died as a result of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

“What’s the point of living,” he wrote. “I’ve never felt so alone and sick in the head, but everyone keeps telling me to fight through the demons in my head and stay alive. … The only thing I wish for is death.”

BCA agents also searched Larson’s phone and found two internet searches from Nov. 20 about bleeding to death from cut arteries.

Larson, a 2015 graduate of Stillwater Area High School, worked as a cashier at Fleet Farm in Oakdale.

Julien did not face charges in connection with the fatal shooting. According to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, he acted in self-defense and was justified in using deadly force against Larson.

In addition to not wearing his body camera, Julien’s squad-car camera was not activated during the time of the shooting. He told BCA investigators that he “accidentally left his (body-worn) camera in his squad car” and that “he believes he shut it off when he arrived on scene.”

Uniformed officers are supposed to wear their cameras on duty, Police Chief John Gannaway said Wednesday.

“Officer Julien was not wearing his body worn camera at the time of the incident, but the other three officers on scene were wearing and had activated theirs,” he said.

When asked if Julien was disciplined, Gannaway said the issue was addressed internally. He would not elaborate.

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Post time: Mar-29-2019
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