The unarmed man who was shot and killed by a Mankato police officer during a scuffle in a hotel lobby on New Year's Eve was a 33-year-old biology teacher from the Twin Cities who was admired by his colleagues.
Chase A. Tuseth, a graduate of Minnesota State University Mankato who taught high school in Shakopee, was shot early Saturday morning in the Country Inn and Suites off Hwy. 22, according to authorities and relatives. Tuseth was killed by officer Gary Schnorenberg, who was called to a heated encounter between Tuseth and hotel staff, during which the teacher reportedly went behind the hotel lobby counter and began throwing things, authorities said.
Schnorenberg, a 30-year veteran of the Mankato Department of Public Safety, remained on paid administrative leave, the standard procedure when an officer fires a gun, state Department of Public Safety officials said in a news release Monday. Schnorenberg's attorney Eric Nelson declined to comment Monday.
The shooting occurred just after 4 a.m. Saturday, a short time after a hotel employee called 911 to report that Tuseth was throwing items from behind the counter, authorities said. Shortly after arriving, Schnorenberg encountered Tuseth in a hallway near the hotel's pool and Schnorenberg used his Taser against the man after he ignored "several verbal commands," the news release said.
Schnorenberg was trying to handcuff Tuseth, who "broke free and began hitting and kicking" the officer, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting. Moments later, Tuseth was dead. Efforts to resuscitate him at the scene were unsuccessful, authorities said.
Schnorenberg was treated for his injuries at Mayo Clinic Health System and released. It's unclear whether surveillance video captured the incident. Mankato police officers do not wear body cameras.
This is the third police-involved shooting in the city since 2000, according to a Star Tribune database of fatal police encounters.
Most recently, Lloyd Tschohl, 83, a farmer from North Mankato, Minn., was shot and killed in January 2013 after exchanging gunfire with Mankato police trying to check his welfare. Tschohl, who had mental health issues, was armed with two handguns and fired at the responding officers, according to authorities.
'An innovative teacher'
Tuseth, who lived in Chanhassen, was hired in August and joined the staff at the Tokata Learning Center, an alternative high school in the Shakopee Public Schools. Before that, he taught for three years until 2016 at Integrated Arts Academy in Chaska.
"He was an innovative teacher," said Tokata Principal Eric Serbus. "He was always looking for the next and best way to connect with students. He brought his experience of project-based learning from the Integrated Arts Academy to Shakopee public schools. He was on the cutting edge of learning."
District Superintendent Rod Thompson said he met Tuseth last summer when he was a guest speaker for the University of Minnesota's educational leadership program, which Tuseth was enrolled in at the time of his death.
"From our very first introduction, I immediately knew he would be an excellent addition to our district teaching staff and that he had the 'it factor' to become an exceptional administrator." he said.
Tuseth was a 2008 graduate of Minnesota State Mankato and a high-jumper on the track team, said his uncle, Mark Liptrap. He attended high school in Stewartville, Minn., and competed at the state meet in 2001. His mother, Mickie Tuseth, teaches and coaches track and cross-country in the Stewartville School District. His father, Tony Tuseth, taught there until the previous school year and remains as an assistant girls basketball coach.
The Mankato Free Press, citing police dispatch audio, reported the shooting occurred minutes after a hotel clerk called 911 and reported feeling threatened by a man behaving aggressively. He was said to be throwing objects, including at the clerk.
According to the audio, emergency medical personnel reported the man was shot in the left side, with an exit wound on his back.
Tuseth's uncle said he's baffled his nephew would be a threat to police and has never been in serious trouble.
"This is just too weird, you know," he said. "It doesn't have to escalate to this."
Liptrap said Monday Tuseth was probably socializing in his old college town. He said his nephew's car was in a lot miles from the hotel. "We only assume he had been drinking," said the uncle, who noted that it was Tuseth's habit to leave his car when he had been drinking and opt for a cab.
Tuseth was cited for drunken driving in 2008 in Scott County. After meeting various conditions set by the court, that charge was dismissed under what is called a "stay of adjudication."
Liptrap said Tuseth's parents have made contact with two other friends who were with their son that night. Tuseth's roommate, Luke Mikkola, was out of town at the time of the shooting and said "everybody is so shocked" that police would have shot Tuseth.
"I never saw this coming," Mikkola said. "He's a super nice guy. He works with kids and is very accommodating to people of other backgrounds. He's lived all over the world."
Tuseth's parents were on their way Monday to Mankato to talk with the BCA and police, Liptrap said Monday afternoon. "Mickie will know more by [Tuesday]. She says that all she wants is a good party on Friday night for all his friends at the reception" before Saturday's funeral, he said.
The parents were notified by authorities 14 hours after the shooting, Liptrap said, a length of time that left the family "really upset. … They're getting ready for a funeral and are totally devastated by this."
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a mayoral candidate in Minneapolis who has spoken out on police violence in the past, called the incident "disturbing" in a Facebook post on Monday. "It is equally disturbing to see that there is hardly a public outcry unless groups like the Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter, or other advocacy groups rise up and bring attention to these issues," she wrote.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064