LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — No criminal charges will be filed against a Morrison County deputy after he was cleared for using force against a man during a May domestic assault incident.
Morrison County Attorney Brian J. Middendorf made the determination to not pursue criminal charges after reviewing the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigative reports in the matter, a news release stated.
“I have determined that the use of force was clearly authorized by law and that criminal charges are not warranted,” Middendorf stated.
The Morrison County Sheriff’s Office was called May 22 to a domestic assault involving a knife at a residence near Genola, about 30 miles south of Brainerd. The victim reported she was assaulted by Robert Allen Anderson, 44, of Motley, and she was being treated in the emergency room for her injuries. She stated Anderson pulled a knife on her and told her he was going to kill her. Based on the allegations, Anderson was later charged with two felonies — second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and domestic assault.
The victim also told authorities that Anderson sent her a series of text messages stating she should call police because he would kill himself or have law enforcement kill him, the release stated. Law enforcement attempted to locate Anderson and found him inside a vehicle stuck in a field about 6 miles west of Genola. Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen, Sgt. Doug Rekstad and Deputy Bill Vanden Avond, along with two officers from the Little Falls Police Department, responded.
The entire encounter was captured on squad video with audio and lasted about two minutes. In the video, Vanden Avond and a Little Falls officer are seen approaching Anderson directly from the front and the other three officers are moving off the side in a tactical formation. All five officers are carrying weapons, and Vanden Avond carries a less lethal weapon that discharges bean bag rounds.
The video shows the officers clearly shouting commands at Anderson to open the door and get out of his car. He is told at least 20 times to either open the door or get out of the car. Anderson doesn’t comply with the orders or show any indication he intends to comply, the release stated. Anderson is heard saying, “No,” to the commands.
The video shows Anderson leaning out the open window of his vehicle, exposing his upper torso, and then withdrawing back inside his vehicle. This was done repeatedly. Anderson also is heard stating he has a gun. About 90 seconds into the encounter, Vanden Avond informs the officers on the left and right side of him he intends to deploy his weapon if Anderson leans further out of the vehicle. A moment later, Anderson leans out of his vehicle again, fully exposing his upper torso, and Vanden Avond discharges his weapon and strikes him in the chest with a bean bag round, the release stated.
Officers immediately began providing Anderson with medical assistance. No firearm was found in the vehicle, but a knife was located.
Vanden Avond explained his thought process in discharging a bean bag round at Anderson, stating, “My concern is for the safety of my partners … and because of his reaching back in the vehicle, every time he reaches down and comes up with something I don’t know if he’s gonna be coming out with a gun.”
Middendorf affirmed that in the press release. “The evidence submitted to me establishes that Deputy Vanden Avond fired his less lethal weapon within the scope of his employment as a law enforcement officer in order to protect himself and the other officers from apparent death or great bodily harm,” he said.
Middendorf added Anderson was given sufficient opportunities to obey the commands to get out of the vehicle, as the video showed. He also told authorities he had a gun and he kept reaching back inside of the vehicle.