Weather Forecast


Deputies cleared in shooting at Garfield home

Three Douglas County sheriff's deputies who shot a man armed with a rifle in his Garfield home on February 6 have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson made that determination after studying the results of an independent investigation conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"Based on all the facts presented to me, I have concluded that each officer who fired their weapon reasonably believed that their lives, and the lives of their fellow officers, were in immediate danger," Larson said in a news release issued Friday. "Moreover, their response was propor-tionate to the level of threat that they encountered."

Larson said that the officers' use of force was "clearly justified and appropriate" under Minnesota law.

The BCA report detailed the ballistics, firearms and subjects involved in the shooting, which Larson said were consistent with the statements provided by the officers, witness statements, sheriff's office reports, photographs and scene observations.

The incident happened at 9145 County Road 8 where Jonathan Patrick Benson, 30, was living. His mother, who also lived there, called 911 and reported that her son was upset, had a gun and was making threats to shoot two houseguests who had been staying at the home for several months, according to authorities.

In the news release, Larson included new details of what allegedly took place when deputies arrived:

The officers, dressed in full uniform, made their presence known to Benson and tried to talk him into dropping his firearm and surrendering. He refused.

One of the houseguests reportedly told officers that Benson, who had a felony warrant out for his arrest, "would not go down without a fight." They were also told that Benson had additional firearms lined up against a table in the basement.

After not complying with the officers' commands, Benson said he was done talking and retreated into the basement. As two officers began to follow him, the sound of a firearm being loaded was audible, according to court documents.

Deputies Jacob Asfeld and Paul Trautman took positions to the north and south of the open basement doorway as Deputy Greg Windhurst requested a SWAT response.

The deputies in the doorway shouted commands to Benson to drop the firearm and come out with his hands raised. Benson refused, according to court documents, and responded by making a defiant comment and taking position behind a wooden cabinet in a darker part of the basement.

A short time later, Asfeld observed the muzzle of a firearm emerge from behind the cabinet, 10 to 15 feet from his position. The muzzle was reportedly in line with his head.

Asfeld responded by lowering his body and firing several rounds into the cabinet.

Hearing shots fired, Deputy Arthur Vinson and State Trooper Todd Swanson joined Asfeld and Trautman and took positions behind them.

Officers told Benson to put the gun down and surrender. Benson reportedly gave a defiant statement and emerged from his position, at which point, Vinson and Trautman fired.

Benson told officers that he had been hit and the deputies disarmed him and rendered first aid until an ambulance arrived.

Benson was hospitalized with one gunshot wound to his neck and multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body.

Investigators said that Benson had been in possession of a .223-caliber "AR-15" rifle that had one live bullet in the chamber, a magazine full of live rounds and the weapon's safety button was in the "fire position," according to the complaint.

After Benson recovered from his injuries, he was charged with three counts - assault in the first degree, which involved the deputies, and two counts of assault in the second degree, which in-volved others in the home.

Benson was released from custody at the Douglas County Jail on April 15 after providing $100,000 in cash bail. His next court appearance is set for June 16.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236