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Autopsy underway for man shot by Bemidji Police officers Thursday; names of deceased and officers released

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy of Robert John Erle, a Bemidji man shot by a police officer shortly after noon Thursday.

Two Bemidji police officers have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

According to the preliminary investigation, Erle, 18, called 911 at about 12:12 p.m. Thursday and reported feeling ill. When staff from the Bemidji Ambulance Service, which is stationed a few blocks away, arrived at 228 Kay Avenue S.E. in Nymore, the southeast section of Bemidji, Erle requested a police officer be sent to the home. Medical personnel called the Law Enforcement Center at about 12:25 p.m. to report that the man had blood on him and also had a knife in his possession.

Bemidji Police Officer Nathan Jager arrived a short time later, and within seconds, Erle allegedly removed a knife from his pocket and lunged toward the officer. A struggle ensued between Jager and Erle, during which Jager lost possession of his Taser. When Erle continued to chase Jager with his knife, the officer fired a single shot with his handgun, which struck Erle in the chest.

Officer Becki Pederson then arrived, and both officers attempted to subdue Erle. When Erle again came at Jager with his knife, Jager fired another shot that hit Erle in the chest a second time.

Witnesses told BCA investigators that during the confrontation, Erle yelled "Shoot me" at the officers.

Erle was taken to North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji where he died.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated. Jager has been with the Bemidji Police Department since 2008. Pederson has been with the department since 2003.

The investigation is now led by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is standard in similar incidents.

Bemidji Police Chief Gerald Johnson said the area, at the intersection of Third Street Southeast and Kay Avenue Southeast in southeast Bemidji, is not a place to which police are frequently called.

"I believe this was an isolated incident," he said Thursday. "I don't think there is an ongoing threat to that neighborhood."

Responding to the incident were officers from the Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, Leech Lake Tribal Police Department, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Bemidji Fire Department and Bemidji Ambulance.