County attorney reopens case of deputy who fatally shot man

New evidence turned over after case was closed in January

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office announced Sept. 20 that the prosecution review of the deputy who fatally shot a man in Vadnais Heights in 2017 “should be considered re-opened.”

Earlier that same day the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension sent the county attorny’s office a piece of recorded audio evidence related to the shooting. The recording was not submitted by the BCA as part of its original investigation.

The shooting, which occurred in the 3200 block of Fanum Road around 9:30 p.m. April 16, 2017, stemmed from a confrontation between 47-year-old Darren Jahnke and deputies inside a recreation vehicle, according to a memo released by the county attorney’s office.

Jahnke was shot by a deputy after he allegedly took another deputy’s gun during a struggle.

The BCA presented its investigation to the county attorney’s office in January. County Attorney John Choi decided against charging the deputy who killed Jahnke with criminal wrongdoing and released a 23-page memo with his conclusion.

Based on what was presented in the BCA’s investigation of the killing, the county attorney decided that Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputy Andre Rongitsch was justified in his use of force.

 

Shooting

According to the original investigation memo, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a sexual assault in an RV in Little Canada a few days prior to the shooting.

On the evening of April 16, Easter Sunday, deputy Sara Naglosky, who had been with the department for four months at the time, was on routine patrol in Vadnais Heights with her field training officer, Rongitsch, who had 12 years experience. 

They noticed an RV parked in front of a business in the 3200 block of Fanum Road, a non-residential, industrial area in Vadnais Heights, that wasn’t far from Little Canada.  

The sheriff’s office provides police service for both Vadnais Heights and Little Canada, along with Shoreview and Arden Hills, Falcon Heights and other communities.

A little after 9 p.m., Naglosky and Rongitsch returned, this time finding a man, Jahnke, in the RV, and a car parked behind the RV with a woman sitting in the passenger seat. The memo only provides her initials; A.M. Naglosky and Rongitsch were then joined by canine unit deputies Lisa Daly and Douglas Haider and their canine partners. 

Deputies asked Jahnke to identify himself and the woman, because of the reported sexual assault in an RV in nearby Little Canada. According to the memo, Jahnke refused. 

After Jahnke’s continued refusal to comply, the memo says, the deputies told him he was under arrest. As Rongitsch and Daly entered the RV, Jahnke allegedly grabbed a five-gallon bucket containing fecal matter and ran towards them, making “threatening motions to throw the fecal matter,” says the memo.

Daly tased Jahnke in the leg, causing Jahnke to drop the bucket. Jahnke then, according to the memo, turned his back to the deputies and refused to turn around. Daly fired her taser again, but it failed to incapacitate him. 

The memo says Jahnke tackled Daly to the RV floor. On top of her, Jahnke allegedly grabbed Daly’s loaded gun and allegedly ripped it from her holster. The memo says BCA forensic scientists found Jahnke’s DNA on Daly’s gun and that Daly suffered injuries consistent with being tackled and wrestling with Jahnke. 

Multiple times, according to the memo, deputies told Jahnke to let go of Daly and her gun and show his hands. Deputy Haider fired his taser, hitting Jahnke in the right shoulder this time, which also failed to stop him. 

The memo says Daly screamed “He’s got my gun, he’s got my gun,” and the other deputies couldn’t see Jahnke’s hands. 

Then, multiple times, Daly yelled to Rongitsch, “Please shoot him.” 

Rongitsch fired a single shot at Jahnke, hitting him in the back of the head, the memo says. Deputies administered first aid, the memo says. Jahnke was later pronounced dead at Regions Hospital. 

 

Review reopen

In the Sept. 20 announcement, the county attorney’s office said prosecutors are carefully reviewing the audio recording, have requested a written transcript from the BCA and may have follow-up questions during the course of the review of the recently produced evidence.

The county attorney’s office said “it is disappointing” that evidence was not previously presented, but that it appreciates the BCA’s steps to “ensure this does not occur again.” The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said it will notify the public once a decision on the reopened investigation is made. 

 

—Solomon Gustavo

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