Minnesota attorney general to decide police shooting charges

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s attorney general will decide whether a St. Paul police officer should be charged in connection with last month’s non-fatal shooting of a Black man who had been hiding from police after he allegedly livestreamed a sexual assault.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday that, with the help of the Washington County Attorney’s Office, he will review the Nov. 28 shooting of Joseph Javonte Washington after state investigators finish their probe. He will then determine whether Officer Anthony Dean should face charges.

The case was referred to Ellison’s office by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

“When a county attorney asks us to take over a sensitive case — particularly when another county attorney is providing the resources, and particularly when doing so will improve public trust in the criminal-justice system — I will give that request my fullest consideration,” Ellison said in a statement.

This is not the first police use-of-force case Ellison’s office has been involved in. This summer, his office took the lead in prosecuting the cases against four former Minneapolis police officers who are charged in the May 25 death of George Floyd.

Choi, the Ramsey County attorney, said he has every confidence that Ellison and Choi’s counterparts in Washington County will “handle this case with the utmost integrity. I am grateful for their willingness to step forward and advance the interests of justice in how prosecutors handle officer-involved shooting incidents in Minnesota.”

On Friday evening, several dozen demonstrators marched in St. Paul, demanding that Dean be charged. Many carried Black Lives Matter signs and called for justice as the demonstration blocked a busy intersection and halted light-rail service.

Washington, 31, of Lakeville, has been charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping, and one count of second degree assault in connection with an alleged attack several hours earlier in Lakeville. According to the criminal complaint, he livestreamed his sexual assault of a former girlfriend on social media and threatened to kill her.

The complaint says Washington forced the woman to drive from her home in Lakeville to St. Paul following the assault on Saturday and caused the vehicle to crash. Police tracked Washington to a Dumpster after he fled on foot. When he climbed out, he was stunned with a stun gun and attacked by a police dog before being shot by Dean.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said Washington was naked and unarmed at the time and shouldn’t have been shot. Axtell said Tuesday he took “swift, decisive and serious action” against the officer, but didn’t release details. Several media reports, citing law enforcement sources they did not identify, said Dean was fired.

The officer’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment on Dean’s status, but he’s said that Dean was trying to protect his fellow officers and himself. The officer’s race hasn’t been disclosed.

Washington does not yet have an attorney who could comment on his behalf, according to the State Court Administrator’s Office.

The woman told investigators she found Washington in her house when she returned home Saturday night. Washington punched her and threatened to kill her with a knife before he sexually assaulted her in a bathroom and used her cellphone to livestream video on her Facebook and Snapchat accounts, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, citing the complaint.

According to the complaint, Washington took two knives from the kitchen and dragged the woman into the garage, demanding that she get in her car and start driving. He threatened to stab her if she crashed and punched her every time she tried to slow down, the complaint said.

Washington held a knife at her throat and eventually grabbed the steering wheel, causing the crash in St. Paul, according to prosecutors. He fled and the woman was able to flag down a motorist for help.


This story has been updated to correct the day of the announcement was Friday, not Tuesday.

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