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IP: Oops! Police Fire Tear Gas Into Wrong House
From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: Oops! Police Fire Tear Gas Into Wrong House
Date: Fri, 09 Oct 1998 17:21:40 -0500
To: [email protected]
Source: St. Paul, Minnesota Pioneer Planet News
Published: Friday, October 9, 1998
Suspect captured; incident probed
Tear gas fired into neighbor's house by St. Paul police
ROBERT F. MOORE STAFF WRITER
A 12-hour search for a man who shot at St. Paul police in Highland
Park ended Thursday morning when a police dog found him hiding in a
And a couple living next door to the suspect was temporarily moved by
the city into a hotel after police fired tear gas into their home.
Police Chief William Finney said Thursday night he didn't know
whether the action was planned by the Critical Incident Response
Team, or CIRT.
``I suspect it was an accident,'' Finney said. ``Overall it was an
excellent operation. No one was hurt. They held the position for 12
hours and they made the arrest. But they have some explaining to do.''
Dr. Daniel Lutz, the owner of the house, was not looking for
explanations Thursday night. He just wanted to get back into the home
he has shared with his wife for the last five years.
``I saw my house in the dark last night, but I don't even know the extent
of the damage,'' said Lutz, 28, a chiropractor in Circle Pines. ``Right
now, I'm not trying to point fingers. I don't know if it was justified or
not. I just want my house put back in order.''
Lutz said the city has begun decontaminating the house and that he
planned to move back in early next week.
He and his wife had been evacuated and were at a neighbor's home
before the tear gas operation began just after 1 a.m.
Meanwhile, Finney has scheduled a meeting with supervisors of the
operation today to determine what happened.
Other neighbors who took cover in their basements before the
operation said a contractor was at the scene late Thursday afternoon to
replace the windows of the Lutz home.
Finney said the city attorney was working with the family to repair the
damage. Neither Finney nor Lutz knew the extent of the damage
Despite the incident, however, neighbors agreed police responded
appropriately, simply because the suspect was apprehended.
At about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a police dog discovered Wa Lee Her,
51, in a rusty tin shed next to a residence on the 2300 block of
Edgcumbe Road. Her was treated at Regions Hospital for dog bites on
a leg and released to police custody, pending a decision on multiple
aggravated assault charges.
Police said the dog, Ranger, was sent into the shed after Her ignored
orders to come out. The suspect did not draw a weapon during his
capture, though police recovered a shotgun and a rifle. One of those
weapons was allegedly used the night before to threaten his wife and
also to fire a shot at police. Her's stepson told a 911 dispatcher his
stepfather was threatening to shoot his mother.
Her was apprehended just blocks away from his family's St. Paul
Finney praised the two officers, Tina Kill and Jeffrey Levens, who
responded to Her's home on the 1100 block of St. Paul Avenue just
before 9 p.m. Wednesday.
``I'm real proud of those two officers,'' Finney said. ``They did exactly
what they were trained to do. They contained the situation, evacuated
the residents of the house, called for additional resources and kept the
suspect bottled up all night.''
Police blocked off the area soon after Her allegedly fired a shot at
Levens and fled into the neighborhood between Howell Street and
Levens had shined a flashlight on the suspect and ordered him to put his
hands in the open, when Her fired at the officer, police said. Levens
returned fire. No one was hit.
Later in the night, officers decided to use tear gas after hearing what
police said was a muffled sound, possibly a gunshot, come from the
suspect's house. Police first fired tear gas into the Lutz home and then
Officers from CIRT and the K-9 unit waited until about 7 a.m. to
conduct a ground search of the area. It was a move Finney said was
intended to protect both the public and the between 40 and 50 officers
in the area.
``It doesn't make sense to search a wooded area in the dark when the
suspect has such firepower,'' Finney said. ``We don't want citizens
caught in the cross-fire.''
Neighbors knew little about the suspect, but longtime residents thought
the family moved into their home less than two years ago.
``It was the most frightened I have ever been in my life,'' said Bonnie
Rodriguez, 49, who lives next door to the house where Her was found.
``I was getting ready to go to my doctor and I heard police officers
crawling on my roof and walking on my patio. Some had bulletproof
vests, some were dressed in camouflage. They had their guns drawn, so
they must have known the man was close. I thought there would be a
shootout in front of my house and someone would die in my yard.''
Rodriguez, who has lived on Edgcumbe Road for 15 years, said police
were searching around her house for about 30 minutes Thursday
``I feel better that he is not out here right now, but it terrifies me that he
was out there all night and could have broken into my house,'' she said.
Pat Sellner, who also lives in the neighborhood, viewed the assault and
manhunt as isolated incidents. Sellner, however, admitted being nervous
when he heard a helicopter flying overhead Wednesday night.
``I called 911 when the helicopter got lower,'' he said. ``The dispatcher
just told me to lock the doors and to stay inside.''
_Cmdr. Doug Wills viewed the entire situation with relief, reflecting on
the deaths of two St. Paul police officers gunned down four years ago.
``Whenever you get in a situation like this, you have to remember the
day those officers were killed,'' Wills said. ``It dictates how you do
business, because you want to make sure nothing like that will happen
St. Paul police officer Ron Ryan Jr. was fatally shot at 7 a.m. Aug. 26,
1994, in the parking lot of an East Side church. Three hours later,
officer Tim Jones and his police dog, Laser, were shot and killed by
Ryan's assailant as they and others searched for him in the
neighborhood. Guy Harvey Baker was caught, convicted and
sentenced to life in prison for the slayings.
Robert F. Moore, who covers crime and public safety, can be reached at
[email protected] or at (651) 228-5591.
©1998 PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press - All Rights
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