Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom concluded earlier this month that police officers, including four from Bloomington, were legally justified in firing their weapons that resulted in the death of Isak Aden, 23, of Columbia Heights, on July 2 in Eagan.
Officers initially fired less-lethal rounds in an attempt to subdue Aden after about four hours of negotiation. Squad camera footage from a Minnesota State Patrol vehicle showed Aden then picked up his gun and fired a round, according to the attorney’s report.
Backstrom concluded that it was “objectively reasonable for the five officers to subjectively believe Aden posed a deadly threat to other officers at the scene of this incident at the time they fired their service weapons and, therefore, they were legally justified in using deadly force in this instance.”
“Although I have concluded that the use of deadly force by the law enforcement officers was legally justified in this instance, any loss of life is a tragic occurrence, and I wish to express my sympathy to the family and friends of Isak Aden, whose life was lost in this incident,” Backstrom said in a release.
In order to bring charges against a peace officer for using deadly force in the line of duty, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the use of force was not justified.
Each officer gave statements prior to reviewing video footage or discussing details of the incident with other officers.
They all reported that they believed they and their fellow officers were in danger of being shot.
Officers responded to a call at 6:05 p.m. July 2 to on a report from a woman who said Aden, her ex-boyfriend, had pulled a gun on her. She was in a vehicle with Aden having a tense conversation when Aden reportedly showed her a gun and instructed her to drive, according to the police report.
When she drove to an intersection near the Twin Cities Premium Outlets, she drove into oncoming traffic intending to create a scene and Aden got out of the car.
Another person called 911 stating that they saw a vehicle traveling the wrong way down a one-way road when a young man and woman jumped out of the car and started running.
The woman came over to their car and said “he’s got a gun,” according to the caller.
The woman returned to her car and drove away. Two other witnesses also reported similar information to police.
At approximately 6:44 p.m. officers spotted Aden running across Highway 13 onto Seneca Road and pursued him on foot.
Aden eventually sat down on the curb of a parking lot along Seneca Road and put a gun to his head and asked the officers to shoot him, according to the report.
Through negotiation, Aden said the gun belonged to one of his brothers. According to the report, his brother told a detective that Aden had stolen his gun, a 9mm Smith & Wesson.
Officers began negotiating with Aden in an attempt to get him to put down the gun, and they said would attempt to bring the woman who initially made the 911 call.
A notification was sent to businesses and residences within a half mile of the indent at about 7:05 p.m.
At 7:07 p.m., the report states Aden put down the gun close to his right foot, but he did not comply with the officers request to stand up and place his hands up. At 7:10 p.m., Aden picked the gun back up and put it to his head.
A BearCat was brought to the scene at 7:25 p.m. and after continued negotiations, Aden again set the gun down between his legs at 8:56 p.m. but did respond to officers’ several requests to move away from the gun.
Officers told Aden they wanted to make sure he was safe and that no one wanted to hurt him. If they listened to his commands, they could get him to a safe place and hear his side of the story, according to the report.
Aden made a request to have his former girlfriend at the scene several times.
Officers said if he put down the gun and surrendered, they would bring her if she was willing to come.
According to the report, officers in command concluded that if Aden was far enough away from the gun, they would deploy flash bangs and fire less lethal munitions to get Aden farther away from the gun in an attempt to take him into custody.
Officers threw a phone to Aden from the BearCat vehicle at about 9:22 p.m. and repeated their request to put the gun down and listen to the commands of the officer.
Officers engaged in conversation with Aden at the time. Aden also used the phone to call his ex-girlfriend several times and demand that she be brought to the scene telling officers “The only way I’m gonna be able to do this is if she, she is here and she’s she’s on the phone with me right now. You gotta get her to come down here.”
He said he just wanted to talk to her and he would give up the gun if she came to the scene.
“Yeah, she needs to tell you guys the truth,” he said according to the phone transcripts.
According to the report, officers had trouble contacting her and she would not cooperate with police. An officer eventually contacted the woman who said they were arguing about some personal photos distributed on the Internet.
She was brought to the scene by 9:40 p.m. At that time she said Aden never threatened her with the gun but she was concerned because she’d never seen him with a gun before.
Officers continued to ask Aden to move farther away from he gun, but he said via phone “I’m OK where I’m at.”
Aden told officers that he would kick the gun away when the woman was present.
Aden and the woman eventually had a phone call at 9:58 p.m. where she pleaded and begged him not do anything. She told him she was at the scene and asked him to cooperate.
Officers told Aden that she didn’t want to be involved until it was safe.
He told officers that he was not “willing to go to jail” that night and it’s one thing they “truly had to understand.”
The report indicates there was a plan at about 10 p.m. when the gun was about 3 feet from Aden to deploy flashbangs to distract Aden and then fire less lethal munitions to get him farther away from the gun. Officers got in position, but at 10:03 p.m. Aden had moved closer to the gun, about a foot away, and officers were directed to “stand by.”
At 10:32 p.m., Aden was approximately 18 inches away from the gun, so the decision was to initiate the tactical plan.
Two flash bangs were thrown toward Aden and less lethal munitions were fired by officers. Aden reportedly stood up, lunged for the gun, picked it up and began to raise his right hand with the gun in it, according to the report.
It was determined later that he had fired the gun. Officers found one 9mm Luger at the scene that was fired from the Smith & Wesson pistol.
Fearing for the life of numerous officers at the scene, the officers fired lethal rounds, according to the report.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension used its computer technology to slow down the video because the incident occurred “extremely fast.”
The slow motion version shows that Aden picked up his gun and fired a round after the less lethal munitions were fired, according to the report.
The BCA blurred out the shooting itself in the publicly released video.
Aden was taken by a stretcher to a BearCat, which delivered Aden to an ambulance waiting at the scene. He was transported to Regions Hospital.
The medical examiner determined Aden sustained 11 gunshot wounds.
Eagan police officer Jacob Peterson along with Bloomington officers Mathew Ryan, Anthony Kiehl, Adam Stier and Daniel Nelson fired the lethal rounds.
The BCA was the lead investigative agency for the incident.
The investigation included 24 squad camera and body camera videos from the Minnesota State Patrol, Eagan Police Department, Burnsville Police Department, Bloomington Police Department and Columbia Heights Police Department.
They had statements and reports from about 85 officers at the scene; video surveillance from several nearby businesses; radio communication records; and audio recordings of negotiations and 911 calls.
After the shooting, family members and supporters of Aden sought to obtain video footage of incident from various law enforcement agencies, including the Eagan, Bloomington, Burnsville and Apple Valley police departments.
The family members protested the lack of response by the agencies by giving vocal demonstrations at recent Eagan and Burnsville city council meetings.
According to a Facebook post from the “Justice for Isak Aden” page Nov. 14, “The video released does not show a ‘justified’ killing. It shows an entirely unnecessary and unjustified killing.”
The post stated that the redacted video released is “highly suspicious.”
“The redaction makes it impossible to see if Isak ‘reached for a gun’ as the police claim, or whether he merely was just struggling to run while being attacked by grenades – not that either situation justifies Isak’s death.”
The post also stated they have “information we have seen directly contradicts portions of the police narrative presented to the media. As the family and their lawyers work through things, more information will be made public.”
The post also asked for more conversation about “decision, tactics, training, and aggressive handling of people of color by police” and questioned the “military response” for a lone citizen with no criminal history.
Sumaya Aden, Isak’s younger sister, told the Eagan City Council that her brother was contributing citizen to American society who graduated from high school, worked in corporate America and was one semester away from graduating college.
Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts released a statement following the Dakota County attorney’s decision.
“The life of Isak Aden was lost this past July and the impacts were significant to the Aden family, the officers involved, as well as the community. Today, the Dakota County Attorney’s Office reached a decision in the officer-involved shooting death of Isak Aden, concluding that officers were justified in using deadly force. We know this is a difficult time for everyone impacted by this situation. I am committed to helping anywhere I can, as individuals work through the process of dealing with their grief, emotions and well-being. My hope is that we can begin the long process of healing from this tragic event.”
Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.