The mother of an Iron Range man who was fatally shot by St. Louis County sheriff's deputies over the weekend said Sunday that she has been left searching for answers.
Jacqueline Martinez said law enforcement officers suspected Estavon Dominic Elioff, 19, of shoplifting early Saturday afternoon at L & M Fleet Supply in Mountain Iron shortly before they chased him into the woods and shot him.
A Sheriff's Office statement said a deputy arrived outside the retailer, where Elioff "refused commands and then fled on foot."
About an hour later, deputies and a police dog found the man in a nearby woods. Deputies first deployed Tasers, then two of them shot the man, the statement said.
Elioff lived in Virginia, a few miles to the east of where he was shot. He died at the scene.
The Sheriff's Office did not say what led the deputies to shoot Elioff or whether he had a weapon.
"Why did two officers have to feel the need to shoot him?" said Martinez, who lives in Vancouver, Wash. She said she was given a minimal amount of information from the Sheriff's Office when she was notified several hours afterward that her son was dead.
"All I know is that he was running from them," she said. "They tased him, and they shot him. I don't know. I have all these questions."
Deputies learned during the pursuit that the man matched the description of a suspect in a drive-by shooting Friday in Virginia, where gunfire hit a home's rear door, according to police in that city. Another suspect in that incident, a 32-year-old man, was arrested and remained jailed Sunday.
The deputies who fired their weapons have been placed on standard administrative leave, and St. Louis County has asked for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate. The officers' identities have not been released.
Police officers from Virginia, Eveleth and Gilbert had roles in the search for Elioff before he was shot. The State Patrol set up the perimeter and conducted the search.
Martinez said she spoke with her son Saturday morning, and arrangements were made to move him out of his grandmother's home in Virginia, get him on a bus and join his mother in Vancouver.
She said "he fell into drugs like other kids, and we needed to get him out of there because we knew there was a lot of trouble."
Martinez said it was her understanding that "he was on the bus, and then we heard he got off the bus."
As the mother made arrangements to fly to Minnesota, she said, "I've been asking him for a year to come here. Things weren't right up there. We had to get him into treatment so it wouldn't end like this."
Elioff was a great-grandson of Dominic J. Elioff, a DFLer who represented the Iron Range in the Minnesota House from 1979 to 1986.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482