25 Jan 2010

The Policeman Is Not Your Friend, Guy-in-Nothing-But-Swim-Trunks-Takes-3-to-the-Chest edition

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As I have said before, I only pass along the most outrageous stories about excessive police force. This one qualifies (HT2LRC):

Heilman was shot in the chest by Le Sueur County Sheriff’s investigator Todd Waldron on Monday at Valley View Apartments after the Heilman car committed an alleged traffic violation and Heilman allegedly resisted arrest. Witnesses, friends and family members contend that the shooting was unjustified.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokesman Andy Skoogman could answer some questions of reporters but said several pieces were still under investigation so declined to answer others.

Skoogman asked the public to reserve judgment until the matter is thoroughly investigated, which could take six to eight weeks.

Asked by a reporter at the press conference if Heilman saw that officer Waldron had a gun, Skoogman said that was still under investigation.

Asked when the backup squad car arrived, Skoogman said he wasn’t sure but it was some time after the confrontation between Heilman and Waldron.

Skoogman told reporters that in cases such as this people need to look at the totality of evidence and that’s what BCA investigators are doing. He said he believed there was indeed a physical confrontation that took place. However, to characterize that physical confrontation further gets at the heart of the investigation, and at this point, Skoogman was not comfortable doing that.

Asked at what point the Le Sueur County officer identified himself to Heilman, or if he ever did, Skoogman said he wasn’t sure.

Asked if there was bad blood between Waldron and Heilman, Skoogman said he didn’t know that.

Asked if a woman was nicked by a bullet, and if another bullet went into an apartment building, Skoogman said the preliminary investigation suggests that no one besides Heilman was injured. Skoogman said he believed the matter of whether a bullet went into the apartment building is still under investigation.

Asked if the badge being displayed on the investigator’s belt is law enforcement protocol, Skoogman said that to clarify, Waldron was not undercover, he was a plain-clothed officer.

Asked if it would be protocol for an officer to identify himself as an officer, Skoogman said he would have to defer that question to to others. Skoogman said the badge was visible on Waldron’s belt.

Asked if there are any witnesses at this point to say the officer identified himself as an officer before he fired shots, Skoogman said that’s part of the ongoing investigation.

Skoogman said cases like this are complicated, need to be investigated thoroughly, there are balistics and toxicology, and it will take between six and eight weeks. The BCA is asking the public to withhold judgment until all of the facts are in.

Asked if there is anything the BCA wants to say to the public about the fact that Heilman was wearing only a swimsuit, and that shots were fired, and that there was really no chance of Heilman pulling a weapon out, Skoogman reitiated that everyone needs to look at the totality of the evidence and not pass judgement until all the facts are in. Cases such as this take time, Skoogman said.

Update 10 p.m. Tuesday – LE CENTER – Friends and family members of Tyler Heilman are gathered at the Le Sueur County Courthouse in Le Center to protest the shooting on Monday.

Witnesses who saw a Le Sueur County Sheriff’s investigator fire up to four shots into the chest of Heilman are insisting that the investigator did not identify himself as an officer before he pulled the trigger.

Andy Skoogman of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension urged all to reserve judgment until the shooting incident has been thoroughly investigated. Skoogman also said Heilman resisted arrest.

Kris Hoehn, a friend who was with Heilman during the shooting, said his friend is a good wrestler and managed to get the upper hand before he knew he was tangling with a law officer. Once Heilman learned that was the case, he backed off, Hoehn said. But the officer came up shooting, Hoehn said.

Friends of Heilman have pitched a tent near the courthouse.

Le Center is the county seat in Le Sueur County, and the courthouse is headquarters of the courts and sheriff’s office. Kasota is located in Le Sueur County, just across the river from Nicollet County.

Heilman was not alone while swimming in the Minnesota River on Monday afternoon. The Heilman vehicle was seen driving up Firemen’s Hill, the sledding hill in town.

The Le Sueur County undercover investigator, Todd Waldron, was driving an unmarked Dodge Durango and saw the Heilman vehicle swerving around. Authorities say Waldron, who was investigating a separate incident in the Kasota area, called for a marked squad car to come and question the driver of the Heilman vehicle.

Before that marked squad arrived, Waldron in the Durango followed the Heilman vehicle into the parking lot of Valley View Apartments in Kasota, got out, and the altercation between ensued.

Hoehn said neither he nor Heilman realized that the man in the Durango was an officer until it was too late.

Heilman and his girlfriend had a 3-year-old son.

LE CENTER – Questions were many, but answers were few during a July 21 press
conference concerning the July 20 shooting death of a 24-year-old Kasota man.

Tyler Heilman was shot and killed Monday afternoon by a sheriff’s deputy in Kasota.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokesman Andy Skoogman delivered a statement and fielded questions on the lawn of the Le Sueur County Law Enforcement Center in Le Center shortly before noon.

Skoogman identified the deputy involved in the shooting as Todd Waldron, 37, a 10-year veteran of the LeSueur County Sheriff’s Office.

Skoogman said Waldron was in Kasota at approximately 3:30 p.m. when he noticed a vehicle driving erratically at a high rate of speed. At one point the vehicle left the roadway and drove up a steep embankment.

Waldron was driving an unmarked Dodge Durango when he followed the suspect vehicle, during which time he called dispatch for backup. The vehicle pulled into the parking lot of the Valley View Apartments. Heilman exited the vehicle and was confronted by Waldron who was wearing plain clothes but had a sheriff’s badge hooked to his belt.

After a verbal exchange between the two men, the confrontation became physical. Waldron fired four shots and Skoogman would not disclose how many of those shots hit Heilman. He did say Waldron suffered non life-threatening injuries and no weapons were found in Heilman’s car.

Beyond that, Skoogman declined to provide further details. “This is a complicated matter which needs to be investigated thoroughly,” Skoogman said. “I’m telling the community to withhold judgement until the facts are in.”

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