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Suspected cop killer told officer, 'I hate cops and I'm guilty,' court records say

Brian George Fitch

ST. PAUL – As Mendota Heights police veteran Scott Patrick lay dying on a West St. Paul street Wednesday, passers-by and witnesses to his shooting rushed to his side. Some tried to administer first aid. One picked up his radio and issued a somber notice: “Officer down.”

A manhunt followed, culminating in a shootout in a parking lot that evening.

When the dust settled, Patrick’s accused killer made no secret about what had happened, prosecutors say.

“Just to let you know,” he told an officer in the hospital, according to court documents, “I hate cops and I’m guilty.”

The account of the shooting and ensuing manhunt was laid out in criminal charges filed Friday in both Ramsey and Dakota County courts.

Brian George Fitch, 39, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Patrick’s slaying – one for premeditation, one for killing an officer. He was also charged with a bevy of attempted murder, assault and gun felonies for allegedly shooting at officers once they tracked him down in St. Paul.

Fitch was expected to undergo abdominal surgery Friday. He was shot multiple times during his arrest. Court documents said he’s medicated and will be in the hospital for at least a week. As of Friday evening, he did not have a defense attorney on record.

At a news conference Friday, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced plans to convene a rare multicounty grand jury to streamline the cases against Fitch into one.

That’s been done just once in Dakota County history, Backstrom said; as far as he knew, it’s never happened in Ramsey.

State law requires a grand jury to review the first-degree murder charges. A conviction on either of those counts carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

The other charges, filed in Ramsey County, include three counts of attempted murder of a police officer, three counts of drive-by shooting, three counts of assault with a gun and a count of illegally possessing a firearm.

Fitch, who has a long criminal record, had multiple outstanding warrants when Patrick stopped him near the intersection of Dodd Road and Smith Avenue in West St. Paul around 12:20 p.m. Wednesday. He was likely facing prison time for probation violations if caught – and also had a pending Dakota County drug felony case in which prosecutors were seeking a sentence of at least 13 years.

Patrick likely didn’t know that because the car was registered to someone else. West St. Paul police Lt. Brian Sturgeon said authorities don’t know why Patrick made the stop, and “don’t know if we’ll ever know.”

According to the criminal charges:

Patrick made the stop and approached the car. As he did so, Fitch opened fire.

Witnesses heard three shots and saw Patrick go down. He was hit in the head, leg and abdomen, and pronounced dead at the hospital soon after.

The Grand Am sped away. Video from Patrick’s squad car showed Fitch was the only occupant.

Officers tracked the car to a residence in St. Paul, where it was parked in a yard and covered in a tarp. The residents, a man and a woman, said Fitch had showed up shortly after the shooting. He wanted to hide his car there and buy the woman’s Hyundai Veracruz SUV, the charges said.

She refused to sell him the vehicle but agreed to let him borrow it for a few days, the charges said.

About 8 p.m. Wednesday, officers searching for Fitch got tips from two confidential informants that he was in a residence on Sycamore Street in St. Paul. Police descended on the area. They saw Fitch get into the Veracruz and flee.

After a short chase, Fitch veered into a parking lot off Sycamore and came to a halt. A witness saw the driver’s window shatter as Fitch shot at officers, the charges said.

Police shot back. Fitch slumped forward, hit. None of the officers were hurt.

There were two passengers in the Veracruz, according to the charges – a man and a woman. Police identified the woman as 36-year-old Kelly Hardy. She was in the back seat behind Fitch and sustained gunshot wounds to her leg and elbow that were not life-threatening.

One officer on the scene said he yelled for the others to stop shooting once he realized Hardy was also in the car, he said.

Hardy told police Fitch would not surrender, the complaint said. When Fitch did not leave the SUV after he was ordered to do so, police used a SWAT BearCat armored vehicle to shield themselves to make the arrest.

The male passenger was not identified. He jumped out of the vehicle when it came to a stop and followed police commands to go to the ground, prosecutors said.

He told police Fitch had showed up at the Sycamore Street residence about 5 or 6 p.m. with Hardy.

Fitch, armed with a handgun, told the man to say he went to Canada if anyone asked, according to the charges. He said he’d kill him if he said otherwise.

Prosecutors would not describe Fitch’s relationship with the people listed in the complaints or say whether they might face criminal charges.

After the shootout, police seized the 9mm pistol with a laser sight Fitch had wielded. It was believed to be stolen from Eden Prairie. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is testing the gun, along with a shell casing recovered from the Grand Am and two bullets from Patrick’s body, to see if they match.

A search of the Veracruz also turned up a small .22 Derringer pistol and a “large quantity” of suspected methamphetamine. Prosecutors declined to say how much.

Court documents indicate Fitch has a history with the drug.

Fitch’s remark about hating police and being guilty was made to an officer watching over him in Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the charges said. The charges don’t specify if Fitch said it after he was read his Miranda rights, but a spokeswoman for Backstrom’s office said it didn’t matter: Prosecutors will treat the remark as an utterance made freely and not under questioning. Such statements are generally admissible in court.

Backstrom was asked by reporters Friday if there was anything more that courts or law enforcement could have done to keep Fitch – who has a history of multiple armed felonies – off the streets. He was asked in particular about a Dakota County judge’s decision in 2013 to sentence Fitch to probation for a terroristic threats conviction.

It was a downward departure from sentencing guidelines. The prosecutor had asked for prison instead.

“It’s a fact, and I’m not going to comment on it further,” Backstrom said of the sentencing decision. Scrutinizing how an offender was handled is always easier in hindsight, he said.

Fitch wound up behind bars anyway for a probation violation, but he was released into drug treatment in February. He failed out of the program and slipped away from law enforcement supervision.

Police officers present at Friday’s news conference wore black bands over their badges to honor Patrick, whom Backstrom described as a model officer who cared deeply about serving the community.

Mike Brue, who formerly worked for WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks and the Grand Forks Herald, now the communications director for the North Dakota Association for the Disabled, is Patrick’s brother.

Fitch is scheduled to make his first appearance in Ramsey County District Court on those charges Monday, and he will first appear in Dakota County on the murder charges Aug. 12.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.