A gunman who allegedly terrorized victims in east metro communities with crimes including kidnapping, sexual assault, carjackings and home invasion came to an end with officers fatally shooting him in a Cottage Grove neighborhood.
The suspect was gunned down outside a home shortly after 9 a.m. in the 7400 block of Hidden Valley Court S., a few hours after the first of his violent crimes occurred about 20 miles to the north in Maplewood, authorities in various jurisdictions said.
Law enforcement has yet to identify the man or offer an explanation for what sent him on his violent path.
"It could have been much worse," said Pete Koerner, Cottage Grove public safety director, addressing the suspect's actions in his city. "I can't imagine what the family's going through, the person having their vehicle stolen or the family having an unknown person coming into their house. [It's] terrible."
Monday's death from police gunfire brings the number of fatal officer-involved encounters in Minnesota this year to 13. That total ties with the full years of 2015, 2016 and 2018 for the highest annual total, based on Star Tribune tracking that reaches back to 2000.
According to authorities and emergency dispatch audio:
A woman in her 20s arrived for work about 6 a.m. at the Ramsey County Care Center, a senior nursing home, in the 2000 block of White Bear Avenue in Maplewood and was kidnapped at gunpoint in the parking lot by a man she did not know.
"This was one of those terrifying kind of scenarios," said Maplewood Police Cmdr. Dave Kvam. "I'd argue that anywhere in Maplewood you should be able to make your way into your place of employment without being bothered. This sort of thing is rare, no matter where you go in the country."
The suspect drove the woman and her car about 6 miles south to her home in St. Paul, where she was sexually assaulted.
He fled from there in a second stolen vehicle and left her tied up, but she freed herself and called 911.
Thanks to GPS technology, said St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders, "our officers were able to locate the [second stolen] vehicle in Cottage Grove and notify the Cottage Grove police."
The gunman then commandeered a third vehicle before officers swarmed the Cottage Grove neighborhood north of Oakwood Park, where one of them saw the man break into a home.
"Ah, he just kicked in a door! He kicked in a door!" the officer reported from the scene, the dispatch audio disclosed. "I saw somebody in there with a white bathrobe."
The residents were held hostage for no more than "a matter of minutes," said Cottage Grove police spokesman Scott Seroka, before they fled the home and left the suspect in the garage, where there was a pickup truck with the keys inside. Another officer told dispatch, "We have a problem with that truck coming out."
The man drove out of the garage, around police squad cars and barriers but soon crashed into a tree. He then started to flee on foot and, while still armed, encountered officers.
One officer from Cottage Grove and another from a neighboring agency opened fire, and the suspect was killed.
Some of the unfolding drama was captured on police cameras, Koerner said.
The string of crimes is now under investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482