DULUTH – An attorney for the police officer who shot an unarmed man through an apartment door is asking the court to dismiss felony charges against 28-year-old Tyler Leibfried, arguing the officer's actions were a justified response to what sounded like gunshots coming from the unit.
On Sept. 12, Leibfried shot and injured 23-year-old Jared Fyle, who told investigators the loud noise was caused by him kicking and locking the door. Police had been dispatched to the apartment to respond to calls about a domestic argument.
In a motion filed Monday in St. Louis County Court, attorney Paul Engh wrote that Leibfried's use of force was lawful because he "reasonably believed" someone was attacking him and his partner, officer Cory Lindsholm.
"He could, as a matter of law, fire back if he reasonably believed, and did, that the individual behind the door posed a significant risk to him and Officer Lindsholm of apparent death or great bodily harm," Engh wrote.
Leibfried and Lindsholm met Fyle's girlfriend outside the apartment, where she told the officers she had argued but not been physically harmed. She asked for help retrieving her belongings from the unit.
In interviews with Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators, both officers said they thought they heard shots ring out from the apartment as they approached the door. Charges against Leibfried said the noise of the door closing was "best described as a bang or a firearm report."
"Once he heard those two shots, Officer Leibfried had no duty to wait for the individual inside to discontinue," Engh wrote.
The charges — intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety and reckless discharge of a firearm within a municipality — are each punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine. St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin believes it is the first time his office is pursuing criminal charges against an officer for a shooting.
The Duluth Police Department placed Leibfried "off duty indefinitely" in December. City and police department representatives declined to comment on the matter or say whether Leibfried is still being paid.
Dan Boese, president of the Duluth police union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A St. Louis County judge will listen to oral arguments on the motion at a Feb. 18 hearing.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478