Sheriff: Trooper justified in St. Patrick's Day shooting

11:32 AM, Mar 28, 2007   |    comments
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The Sherburne County Sheriff says a Minnesota State Trooper was justified when he shot and killed a motorist who dragged him down the road. Investigators made that announcement Tuesday afternoon, then released video from two different squad cars that shows part of the incident. After two separate complaints about a green Ford Explorer driving erratically on March 17, Trooper Andrew Thelen brought the vehicle to a halt near County Road 11 in Becker Township. Thelen says the man inside, William Krawchuk, refused to follow his commands. "Trooper Thelen states the suspect grabbed his right arm as he attempted to unlock the vehicle from inside," says Sherburne County Sheriff Bruce Anderson. Squad car video does show a struggle between Krawchuk, Thelen and a Sheriff's deputy. Then, the Explorer accelerates with Thelen hanging from the side. "Trooper Thelen gives repeated commands to stop the vehicle," Anderson says. "The suspect continued to accelerate but did not say anything." So Thelen pulled out his gun. "Trooper Thelen placed his service weapon against the suspect's head," Anderson says. "Twice the suspect looked directly at Trooper Thelen as he pointed the gun at his head, but he was unresponsive." Witnesses estimate the Explorer reached speeds of 55 to 60 miles an hour, with Thelen still hanging from the side. So the trooper fired one shot, killing Krawchuk. Investigators figure Thelen was dragged for at least 13 seconds before firing the shot. The Explorer veered off the road and slowly came to rest in a farm field, nearly 1,900 feet from where it all began. Investigators say the shooting was justified. "Trooper Thelen feared for his life because of the speed and the weaving of the vehicle," Anderson says. The Sheriff says investigators found an open container of alcohol and marijuana inside Krawchuk's car. His blood-alcohol level was .288, which is more than three times the legal limit. Krawchuk's family declined to review the squad car video. Kimberly Mustoe, Krawchuk's girlfriend of seven years, tells KARE 11 the shooting was "a horrible tragedy." She says the family didn't appreciate all the focus on Krawchuk's criminal record while they were trying to grieve. She says friends and family will remember Krawchuk as a "good, down-to-earth, sensitive man." Trooper Thelen suffered minor injuries. He remains on paid administrative leave and sends his condolences to Krawchuk's family.

By Joe Fryer, KARE 11 News

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