A Duluth police officer was charged Monday with two felony counts after shooting an unarmed man through an apartment door in September.
Tyler Leibfried, 28, was responding to a Sept. 12 call about a domestic argument when he heard 23-year-old Jared Fyle kicking and locking the door of a West Duluth apartment and mistook the noise for gunshots, according to the criminal complaint filed in St. Louis County Court.
Charges said Leibfried fired six shots, one of which hit Fyle in the back. Fyle was taken to a hospital and released from the emergency room that night, but a bullet remains lodged in his shoulder because of the high risk associated with the surgery required to remove it, according to a news release from the St. Louis County Attorney's Office.
According to a letter obtained through a public records request, Leibfried was previously reprimanded by Duluth police for "unintentional discharge" of his patrol rifle in 2017.
He was placed on administrative leave in September while the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) used body camera footage and interviews to conduct an investigation, which St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said informed his decision to pursue criminal charges.
The offenses listed in the complaint — 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.
On the night of Sept. 12, Leibfried responded to a call reporting a possible domestic violence incident at the Kingsley Heights Apartments in downtown Duluth. When he entered the building, he met Fyle's girlfriend, who said the pair had argued but emphasized she was not assaulted, according to charges.
She asked for an escort to retrieve belongings from the apartment. To avoid further arguments between the couple, Leibfried and another Duluth officer went to gather items from the apartment unit where Fyle was.
Charges said Fyle kicked the apartment door to make sure it was closed and locked the deadbolt just as Leibfried was about to knock on it. Fyle later told BCA investigators that he did not realize anyone was outside, and he did not possess a firearm.
Both Leibfried and his partner told investigators that they heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the apartment. According to charges, Leibfried fired four quick shots then two more six seconds later, after Fyle had shouted for them to stop.
In a statement, Rubin said that "Leibfried's conduct fails the 'objective reasonable officer' standard and that it was not an objectively reasonable use of deadly force."
Leibfried joined the Duluth Police Department in early 2016 shortly after completing his law enforcement training at Metro State University in St. Paul, according to his personnel file. He previously served as a community service officer for the Rosemount Police Department and joined the Army Reserves in 2010.
According to charges, Leibfried said his military training made him nervous in the narrow hallway outside Fyle's apartment unit because it offered little concealment.
In 2016, Leibfried was suspended for a day and placed on probation after he got in a crash while driving more than 70 mph on 1st Street downtown as he responded to a call for service.
When Leibfried's probationary period was up in January 2017, Police Chief Mike Tusken hand-wrote a congratulatory note saying: "I appreciate you as a person, you have a great foundation of character and I know you will make us proud!"
Paul Engh, an attorney representing Leibfried, said he plans to ask the court to dismiss charges against the officer.
"It is regrettable that Officer Leibfried has been charged. He should not have been," he said. "We look forward to the jury trial."
Andrew Poole, an attorney for Fyle, said in a statement that the 23-year-old is "fortunate to be alive and continues to recover from his gunshot wounds." He said Fyle is "thankful" that Rubin's office decided to pursue prosecution.
"We do not believe, however, that the charged crimes adequately address the act of purposefully shooting at an unarmed person through a closed door," said Poole, adding that Fyle is continuing to explore the possibility of lawsuits against Leibfried, the Duluth Police Department and the city of Duluth.
A Duluth police spokesperson said Monday that the department is using the BCA's findings to conduct an administrative investigation, which should be finished in seven to 10 days. Leibfried's first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 16.
The Duluth Police Union issued a statement Monday saying "it would be premature to comment on the incident itself" while awaiting the details of that internal investigation.
"Officer Leibfried is a dedicated police officer who serves the Duluth community with compassion and pride," the statement said. "The Duluth Police Union continues to support Officer Leibfried through the due process of the internal investigation being conducted by the Duluth Police Department."
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478