Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that he has concluded, after a thorough review of the facts surrounding the death of Keagan Johnson-Lloyd (D.O.B. 2/28/95) on October 1, 2018, that Hastings Police Officer Geoffrey Latsch was legally justified when he used deadly force that caused Keagan Johnson-Lloyd’s death.
On October 1, 2018 at approximately 3:40 p.m., a Hastings police officer Craig Nowlan was dispatched to Spirit Recovery Center, a sober living facility, located in the city of Hastings on a report that one of the residents in the facility had been assaulted with a knife. Upon arrival at the residence Officer Nowlan spoke with the alleged victim who indicated that another resident in the facility, identified as Keagan Johnson-Lloyd (D.O.B. 2/28/95) had assaulted him with a kitchen knife and left the residence. The officer observed a puncture wound to the victim’s leg that the victim indicated occurred when Johnson-Lloyd poked him with a knife during the assault. The officer was provided a physical description of Johnson-Lloyd, which included the clothing he was wearing that day. A "KOPS Alert" was issued to local law enforcement to locate Johnson-Lloyd in regards to the assault. The alert included a description of Johnson-Lloyd, that he was a suspect in a second degree assault with a kitchen knife, and that it was unknown if he still had the knife in his possession.
On October 1, 2018, at approximately 6:18 p.m., Hastings police received information that Johnson-Lloyd was observed near the Resurrection United Methodist Church located on the corner of 15th Street West and Walnut Street in Hastings. Hastings police officers Geoffrey Latsch, Craig Nowlan, Kyle Linscheid, and Blake Nosal drove to the location in their respective squad cars. Officer Latsch and Officer Nowlan were the first officers to arrive. Upon arrival, they observed a person matching Johnson-Lloyd’s description on Walnut Street. Officer Latsch stopped and exited his squad. As he did so, Johnson-Lloyd began to run towards Officer Latsch with what Officer Latsch believed to be a knife in his hand and yelling " [unintelligible] shoot me". In response, Officer Latsch discharged his service firearm three times in the direction of Johnson-Lloyd. Johnson/Lloyd immediately fell to the ground. No other officers discharged a firearm during the incident.
Officers at the scene attempted to provide medical attention to Johnson-Lloyd. He was subsequently pronounced dead by emergency medical personnel who arrived at the scene. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Johnson/Lloyd and concluded that he died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
A more detailed summary of the facts surrounding this incident and evidence obtained during this investigation are contained in the attached memo prepared by the Chief Deputy of the Dakota County Attorney’s Office.
LEGAL ANALYSIS AND DETERMINATION
A. Legal Standard
Under Minnesota law, the use of deadly force by a peace officer is justified in the line of duty when necessary:
(1) to protect the peace officer or another person from apparent death or great bodily harm;
(2) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the peace officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of deadly force; or
(3) to effect the arrest or capture, or prevent the escape, of a person whom the officer knows or has reasonable grounds to believe, has committed or attempted to commit a felony if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or great bodily harm if the person’s apprehension is delayed.1
In order to bring charges against a peace officer for using deadly force in the line of duty, the State must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force was not justified.2 The intentional discharge of a firearm constitutes deadly force.3
In determining whether a legal justification exists for a peace officer to use deadly force, the facts and circumstances must be reviewed from the perspective of what would a reasonable peace officer have done at the time of the incident. The proper inquiry requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case. In making this determination, allowance must be made for the fact that peace officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. The question is whether the peace officer’s actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer, without regard to the officers’ underlying intent or motivation. 4
1Minn. Stat. § 609.066, subd. 2
2 State v. Johnson, 719 N.W.2d 619, 629 (Minn. 1006) citing State v. Basting, 572 N.W. 2d 281, 286 (Minn. 1997)
3 Minn. Stat. § 609.066, subd. 1
4 Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)
As stated above, the use of deadly force by a peace officer is justified to protect the officer or another person from death or great bodily harm. Here, Officer Latsch subjectively believed that Keagan Johnson-Lloyd posed a deadly threat to himself. Officer Latsch’s subjective belief was objectively reasonable under the circumstances present at the time of this incident. Prior to confronting Keagan Johnson-Lloyd, Officer Latsch and other officers had been advised that Johnson/Lloyd was the suspect in a felony assault that had occurred earlier in the day in which a person had been stabbed with a knife. The officers were further advised that the knife used in the assault had not been recovered. Officers had received a credible citizen report that Johnson-Lloyd, a suspect in a stabbing earlier in the day, was observed in the area of the Resurrection United Methodist Church. Upon arriving at the scene of the incident, Officer Latsch observed an individual who match the description of the suspect in the assault that occurred earlier in the day. Officer Latsch parked and exited his squad. As he was doing so Johnson-Lloyd began sprinting in his direction and yelling "[unintelligible] shoot me". Officer Latsch also noticed what appeared to be a metallic object, possibly a knife, in Johnson-Lloyd’s right hand. Johnson-Lloyd was within ten feet of and still sprinting forward towards Officer Latsch when the officer discharged his firearm three times as he was attempting to back away. Officer’s Latsch account of what occurred is consistent with the statements of witnesses and a video obtained from his body camera that was activated at the time of the incident. A razor blade was found in Johnson-Lloyd’s right hand.
Accordingly, under all the facts and circumstances confronting Officer Latsch at the time of this incident, he was legally justified in using deadly force against Keagan Johnson-Lloyd to protect himself from death or great bodily harm.
Backstrom expressed his sympathy to the family and friends of Keagan Johnson-Lloyd, whose life was lost in this incident. "Although I have concluded that the use of deadly force by this police officer was legally justified in this instance, any loss of life is a tragic occurrence," Backstrom stated.
Backstrom also expressed his concern for the well-being of the officers involved in this incident and their families as they deal with the process and emotional impact of a life being taken in the line of duty. Backstrom commented, "Law enforcement officers are trained to protect and serve our communities each and every day. Unfortunately, there are times when officers are placed in a situation where they must use deadly force to protect themselves and the public."
Backstrom thanked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) which served as the lead investigative agency regarding this incident. Access to Hastings Police Department body cam video and the squad videos obtained by the BCA during their investigation into this incident, and other investigative reports compiled in this case may be accessed by contacting the BCA Public Information Officer Jill Oliveira at 651-793-2726.
If you have any questions, please contact James Backstrom at 651-438-4440.