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Minnesota police officer cleared in shooting man with ax; video released

Joshua Hippler, 27, was killed after Rochester Police Department officer Michael Bottcher fired six shots at Hippler who can be seen on body camera footage advancing on Bottcher with an ax the night

RPD shooting
A screenshot from body cam video of the shooting of Joshua Hippler by Rochester police officer Michael Bottcher on July 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Contributed / Rochester Police Department
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ROCHESTER — The Mower County Attorney's Office has cleared a Rochester Police Department officer of any wrongdoing following an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension into a July police shooting that killed a man.

Joshua Hippler, 27, was killed after RPD officer Michael Bottcher fired six shots at Hippler, who can be seen on body camera footage advancing on Bottcher with an ax the night of July 30.

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"It's one of the calls for service that no police officer wants to go to," Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin said. "In this particular case, Officer Bottcher responded appropriately and he did what he had to do, and he did what he was trained to do."

Following the shooting, the BCA began investigating the incident, a standard practice in police shootings in Minnesota. The BCA then turned over its findings to the Mower County Attorney's Office to determine if charges against the officer were warranted.

RPD was not involved in investigating the incident, according to Franklin.

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"Mr. Hippler's actions and statements gave Officer Bottcher no option other than the use of deadly force," reads part of a statement from Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen. "Based upon the information available to Officer Bottcher at the time he fired his weapon at Mr. Hipper, a reasonable officer in his position would have concluded that deadly force was necessary to protect the officer and/or other persons from death or great bodily harm."

Bottcher saw Hippler driving on Broadway Avenue South and noticed the plates on Hippler's vehicle matched the plates of a suspect in an earlier robbery. Bottcher did not attempt to stop Hippler until Hippler made several erratic driving maneuvers eventually facing the wrong way on U.S. Highway 52.

Body camera footage shows Hippler getting out of his vehicle with an ax and walking towards Bottcher. Bottcher repeatedly told Hippler to drop is ax and to back away. Hippler continued to advance on Bottcher, at one point moving in a zig-zag manner in front of Bottcher.

WATCH: Body camera footage from the shooting. The video contains scenes of violence that may be upsetting to some viewers

Hippler can be heard telling Bottcher that he should kill him.

As Hippler advanced and Bottcher continued to back up, a civilian vehicle started approaching.

Bottcher then fired one shot at Hippler and paused. It appears in the body camera footage that the shot hit Hippler but Hippler continued to advance on Bottcher while holding the ax.

Bottcher then fired approximately five more rounds at Hippler. Hippler fell to the ground. Other officers arrived on the scene almost immediately after the shooting and secured Hippler's vehicle and cleared the ax from his hand before rendering medical aid to Hippler.

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An ambulance took Hippler to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys where he died as a result of his gunshot wounds.

Bottcher had been with RPD for just over a year at the time of the shooting. Bottcher has been on administrative leave following the incident and the department is in the process of getting him back to duty.

"Officer Bottcher observed a lethal threat advancing towards him. Officer Bottcher tactically backed up and withdrew, trying to buy time to negotiate and talk the guy down," Franklin said. "He was giving good verbal commands ordering him to drop the weapon and stop advancing on him and then at the point where the distance just became too close and the threat became too close, Officer Bottcher used lethal force which he's authorized to do."

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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