FARGO – A Fargo police officer who shot and seriously wounded a man wielding a BB gun with a laser light last month won't face criminal charges.
Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick determined that Officer Patrick Thomas was justified in firing on Karmen Redshirt in a south Fargo parking lot, according to a letter Burdick sent this week to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which investigated the Sept. 28 shooting.
"Although Redshirt's weapon turned out to be a BB gun, there was no reason Thomas would know that," wrote Burdick, who reviewed the BCI's investigation report, which included squad car video and audio recordings.
Redshirt, 31, of Bismarck allegedly led police on a chase in a stolen vehicle before Thomas confronted him in a lot next to the Pizza Hut at 4701 13th Ave. S. Thomas stopped his squad car when he saw Redshirt on foot in the lot, holding what looked like a handgun with a laser light, Burdick's letter stated.
Redshirt pointed the gun at Thomas, and Thomas, feeling vulnerable in his squad car, got out and went to the rear of the car for protection, the letter said.
Redshirt then walked toward Thomas, pointing the gun at him multiple times, the letter said. Meanwhile, Thomas moved to keep the squad car between them.
During the encounter, Thomas told Redshirt to drop the gun about 19 times, the letter said. Ultimately, with Redshirt not dropping the gun and still moving toward him, Thomas fired three shots at Redshirt, who suffered a wound to his abdomen, according to the letter.
Redshirt was hospitalized for about a week before he was transferred to the Cass County Jail. Hospital records showed that his blood-alcohol level shortly after the shooting was 0.279 percent, the letter stated. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
Two people who were in a camper nearby told police they heard Thomas order Redshirt to drop the gun several times, and they heard Redshirt say, "Don't shoot." Thomas and a West Fargo police officer did not recall hearing Redshirt say that, the letter stated.
"Even if Redshirt did say "don't shoot," it has little bearing on my analysis because Redshirt continued to hold onto his weapon, approach Thomas and point it at Thomas," Burdick wrote.
Redshirt's brother, Cody Redshirt, has questioned Thomas' decision to shoot his brother and to fire multiple shots. "That cop had no right to fire three rounds," Cody Redshirt previously told The Forum.
Redshirt faces felony charges of theft, reckless endangerment and two counts of terrorizing in Cass County District Court, as well as a misdemeanor charge of refusing to halt. His next court hearing is set for Nov. 4.