DULUTH – The lawyer for a police officer accused of shooting an unarmed man through the door of a downtown apartment has asked a judge to order a criminal investigation into the alleged victim, whom he has Credibility challenged in a series of motions before a trial this month.
Paul Engh, representing Tyler Leibfried, claimed there were ‘probable reasons to believe that Mr (Jared) Fyle engaged in witness tampering and attempted bribery’ by offering a neighbor the money in exchange for a favorable testimony.
Engh also asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent Fyle in a criminal investigation and asked permission to admit evidence of Fyle’s “past domestic abuse and reputation for violence, as well as his chronic drug use.” who provoked the violence”. “
“These are all crimes,” Engh told a judge during a hearing on Tuesday. “He’s a criminal. He’s been a criminal most of his life.”
St. Louis County District Attorney Aaron Welch called the motion “grossly inappropriate” and accused Engh of engaging in classic “victim blaming” tactics to distract a jury from the criminal actions. from his own client.
“If what ends up happening is that it turns into a lawsuit about whether Mr. Fyle is a good guy or not, generally speaking, then yes, the state is probably going to lose,” Welch said. . “But I don’t think that’s what this lawsuit is for. And if it turns into that, then justice isn’t done in any way.”
The defense filing alleges that another resident on Fyle’s floor in the Kingsley Heights apartments reported to the St. Louis County District Attorney’s office that Fyle had offered him part of a hypothetical settlement as part of a a civil rights lawsuit that hadn’t yet been filed if she testified that Leibfried was a “wrongful abuser” and that Fyle didn’t use a hatchet placed near his door.
Welch said Fyle “categorically denies” the allegation and told the court the woman was advised to contact the police if she wanted to press charges, as the county attorney’s office is not investigating.
Engh, who suggested the case be moved to another county, admitted his power to request a criminal investigation was “a bit limited”. Welch was more unequivocal, calling the request “clearly in violation of the Minnesota Constitution.”
But Judge Sally Tarnowski has several other key motions to rule on that will impact the nature of the evidence to be heard by jurors in Leibfried’s trial, which is due to begin April 19.
Leibfried shot Fyle after responding to a possible domestic disturbance at his apartment, 105 W. First St., on the night of Sept. 12, 2020. He and a co-worker determined there was no reason to ‘stop, but headed to Fyle’s third-floor unit to help retrieve some of his girlfriend’s belongings.
Leibfried and fellow officer Cory Lindsholm later told Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators they heard two gunshot-like noises, which were later determined likely came from Fyle forcing the door open. to close with a hatchet.
Body camera video shows Leibfried drawing his service pistol and diving into a small alcove as Lindsholm retreats down the hall and into a corner. Leibfried, who could be heard shouting “shots fired” over the radio, waited about 10 seconds before firing a first volley of four shots into the door.
Fyle, who remained inside the apartment, could then be heard shouting “Stop!” at least nine times, followed by an expression of “Ow!” Leibfried, after waiting 6 seconds, then fired two more bullets into the door as more screams were heard from Fyle and others in the building.
Fyle, then 23, was treated at a local hospital for his injuries, but it was determined that a bullet in the shoulder area could not be safely removed.
Officers had not yet announced their presence when the banging noises were heard.
Engh listed a series of incidents which he said constituted Fyle’s “reputation for violence and drug use”, asking the court to unseal confidential juvenile court records and allow the introduction of a wide array of evidence at trial.
He said Fyle had apparently been convicted of assault when he was underage and that police had been called to his flat several times in recent years – finding evidence of a physical altercation with his girlfriend at at least one occasion, reviving an overdose victim in another case and finding a hole punched in the wall on another date.
“We have this corroborating evidence that supports Mr. Leibfried’s mindset that this was an extraordinarily dangerous circumstance in an extraordinarily dangerous place,” the defense attorney said. “I have a foot of (police) reports from this building.”
Welch said he was “insulted” by some of the defense requests, accusing Engh of insinuating that Fyle “brought him in”. He said Fyle was not a mugger and didn’t even know officers were approaching his apartment when he was shot in the back.
The prosecutor asked the judge to limit the evidence to Leibfried’s “actual knowledge” at the time of the shooting – not superfluous information discovered long after the fact, such as the victim’s drug use or the fact that he kept a hatchet near the apartment entrance to help close the stubborn door.
“Frankly, the state’s position is that Mr. Fyle could have been juggling flaming grenades while injecting heroin into his eyeball and that’s irrelevant,” Welch said. “It doesn’t matter because Mr. Leibfried didn’t know it. And he can’t use it as a defence.”
Andrew Poole, a Duluth attorney who has represented Fyle, told the News Tribune he “has no comment at this time and will let the criminal case against Mr. Fyle’s shooter proceed in court.”
Tarnowski took the issues under advisement and will issue a written order before the trial, which is expected to last four days.
Leibfried, 30, of Hermantown, would be the first area officer charged in an on-duty shooting. He faces charges of second degree assault, reckless discharge of a firearm in a municipality and intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety.
The Duluth Police Department determined that Leibfried violated use-of-force policies and said he would remain “immediately on leave.” Records show the city stopped paying him in January 2021.