ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has identified the three officers who discharged their weapons during an officer involved shooting incident on January 31 in St. James.
Assistant Chief Rochelle Hanson has been in law enforcement for 18 years including 14 years with the St. James Police Department. Hanson discharged her Taser and her firearm.
Trooper Jacob Ruppert, who has been in law enforcement for 11 years including one year with the Minnesota State Patrol, discharged his Taser.
Sergeant Barry Gulden, who has been with the Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years, discharged his Taser.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner identified the deceased yesterday as Gilberto NMN Salas, 20, of Gaylord. Salas died of multiple gunshot wounds. The BCA is investigating the officer involved shooting at the request of the St. James Police Department.
Nicollet County sheriff’s deputies at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday spotted a vehicle in LaFayette that earlier Wednesday was reported stolen in New Ulm. A pursuit ensued that included deputies with the Nicollet, Blue Earth and Brown County sheriff’s departments, the New Ulm and North Mankato police departments and the Minnesota State Patrol. The pursuit reached speeds up to 120 miles per hour and wound through Nicollet and Blue Earth counties. Investigators were able to identify the driver as Salas and they called off the pursuit for safety reasons.
At approximately 1 p.m., officers spotted Salas driving the vehicle in St. James in Watonwan County. Salas fled at speeds estimated at 60 miles per hour through residential neighborhoods. Officers pulled back but continued to follow the vehicle until Salas’ vehicle became disabled in a snow bank. Salas then fled on foot into the Casey’s General Store at 620 2nd Avenue South. A female acquaintance of Salas who was a passenger in the vehicle was not involved in the vehicle theft and did not enter the store.
According to the BCA’s preliminary investigation, Salas entered the store immediately followed by the officers. Sergeant Gulden fired his Taser, striking Salas. Salas briefly shut himself in an office behind the service counter then emerged approximately two minutes later carrying a knife. Salas ignored the officers’ commands to drop the knife and Trooper Ruppert and Assistant Chief Hanson both fired their Tasers, striking Salas again. Salas then advanced toward Assistant Chief Hanson. Hanson discharged her firearm, striking Salas.
Officers called for an ambulance and immediately rendered medical aid. Salas was taken by ambulance to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in St. James where he was pronounced deceased. BCA crime scene personnel recovered a knife from the store floor next to where Salas fell.
Assistant Chief Hanson sustained a minor injury to the left hand. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated and released.
Store surveillance cameras and Trooper Ruppert’s Taser camera captured portions of the confrontation, but none captured the shooting itself. No officers were wearing body cameras and there is no dash camera footage of the shooting.
Assistant Chief Hanson, Trooper Ruppert and Sergeant Gulden are all on standard administrative leave.
The investigation is active and ongoing. When the investigation is complete, the BCA will turn its findings over to the Watonwan County Attorney’s Office for review.