Officers won't face criminal charges in two Clay County shootings
MOORHEAD, Minn. — The Clay County Attorney's Office announced that two officers involved in separate nonfatal shootings — a Clay County sheriff's deputy and a Minnesota state trooper — have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in their use of deadly force.
Both shootings were reviewed by the Otter Tail County Attorney's Office at the request of Clay County prosecutors, and the findings were released on Wednesday, April 4.
In one case, Deputy Ryan Sinclair was found to have acted properly in shooting Brady Adrian on Feb. 10. Prosecutors determined the shooting "was necessary to protect himself and others from apparent death or great bodily harm."
Adrian faces five felony charges of assault against a peace officer stemming from the incident, when police responded to a 911 call of a suicidal man armed with a knife at a Sabin, Minn., home.
Daniel Baumann, an agent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, interviewed Sinclair, who said he entered the home with Clay County Sgt. Gabe Tweten, who went into a bedroom, according to a report by Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien.
Seconds later, Sinclair heard an apparent physical altercation and saw Tweten retreat from the bedroom and heard Tweten yell for Sinclair to "get him," according to the report.
"Deputy Sinclair indicated he was fearful for his life, his partner and everyone in the residence," Eldien wrote in her report, explaining the deputy's decision to use deadly force. "He explained that he only had a second to assess the situation and perceived a threat to his life."
Sinclair said he fell into the bathroom and was twitching — the result, he recognized a moment later, of a Taser Adrian had fired at him. Sinclair recalled dropping his gun after being hit by the Taser strike, then regained control.
Sinclair then returned to the bedroom and saw Tweten trying to restrain Adrian, with the help of the suspect's father, Larry Adrian. In his statement, Tweten corroborated Sinclair's account and said Adrian struck him in the head and face during their struggle.
Adrian told investigators the incident started over a dispute about cigarettes with his father. He said he grabbed a knife and told himself he was going to "punch the cop or push him away." He said he picked up a Taser dropped by an officer.
At one point, Adrian said he told Sinclair, "shoot me." Adrian told investigators he struggles with anxiety.
The second shooting happened March 5 a few miles east of Moorhead. Minnesota State Trooper Mark Peterson approached a vehicle in the ditch on I-94 to help the occupants. He found a damaged SUV facing east in the westbound lane against the guard rail.
He approached the driver, Melody Gray, and noticed the front license plate was missing and the rear plate was temporary, which Peterson suspected was fake, according to Eldien's report.
Peterson returned to his squad car to check the vehicle registration and the name of Gray's passenger, later identified as Domonique Crayton. Peterson then saw Crayton get in the driver's seat and try to drive out of the ditch.
After learning the vehicle had been stolen, the trooper returned to tell Crayton and Gray they were under arrest. When he was trying to arrest Crayton, Gray approached Peterson and pointed a gun at his face, according the the report.
"Trooper Peterson said that he thought he was going to die," Eldien wrote in her report. Peterson pulled Crayton behind the vehicle and shot his gun several times at Gray, striking her in the arm, the report said. A snowplow driver and a witness who came upon the scene saw Gray running across the highway into a field.
Gray faces charges of attempted murder and felon in possession of a firearm, as well as a count of receiving stolen property.
Prosecutors said they will not release squad car video of the encounter at this time, which is evidence in ongoing criminal cases stemming from the incident.
Asked about the status of any internal investigation into Trooper Peterson's actions during the encounter, Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol said, "This remains an open investigation and there is a pending criminal case involving the two subjects."
Clay County Chief Deputy Matt Siiro said the BCA investigation of the Sabin shooting has resolved any questions about the officers' conduct in the case.
"It was justifiable use of force, so we have no open, internal investigation into the matter," he said.
The two incidents were among four shootings by law enforcement officers in the Fargo-Moorhead area within a 40-day period. Along with the two Clay County shootings, there was a fatal one March 12 in West Fargo and a nonfatal one March 21 in Fargo.
Prosecutors have not yet determined whether there was any criminal wrongdoing on the part of officers involved in the West Fargo and Fargo shootings, said Birch Burdick, the Cass County state's attorney. Burdick said his office is still waiting for the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation's reports on the shootings.