St. Paul officers acted legally in fatal shooting of William Hughes, county attorney says

October 5, 2018

Two St. Paul police officers will not be criminally charged for fatally shooting William Hughes in early August, the Ramsey County Attorneys Office said Friday.

Officers Matthew Jones and Vincent Adams acted legally, the office found. Ramsey County Attorney John Chois office reviewed evidence in the case as it was being collected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), and issued a decision itself instead of leaving it up to a grand jury, a practice that has become more common in Minnesota in the wake of several recent high-profile officer-involved shootings.

The use of deadly force by Saint Paul Police Officers Vincent Adams and Matthew Jones was objectively reasonable given all of the circumstances that they knew, heard and saw before firing their weapons, Choi wrote in an e-mail to two of his top staffers who reviewed the evidence. The officers actions preceding and during the fatal encounter are consistent with commonly-accepted police practices and training.

Hughes, 43, was killed about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 after his roommate called 911 to report that Hughes had fallen out of his elevated bed, became angry and shot two or three rounds into the wall.

Hughes family could not be immediately reached for comment Friday. The Native Lives Matter Facebook group that first publicly identified Hughes, who was also known as Billy, after the shooting and hosted a rally in his memory said it would not comment until after conferring with Hughes family.

Mayor Melvin Carter issued a written statement supporting Chois decision and calling the shooting a tragedy.

My heart goes out to Mr. Hughes family and friends, to Officers Adams and Jones, and to all in our community who mourn the loss of Billy Hughes, Carter said. Officers must make split-second decisions without the benefits of rewind or instant replay. No training nor de-escalation technique could have guaranteed a peaceful resolution to the terrifying scene portrayed on bodycam footage.

In an e-mail to his staff, police Chief Todd Axtell said that he hoped Fridays decision would allow Hughes family and police to take steps toward healing.

Thankfully, neither of the officers nor the man who was threatened were injured, Axtell wrote. In addition, both officers had their body worn cameras activated, which helped investigators determine exactly what happened.

According to police body camera videos of the incident released several days later by Axtell: The officers entered an enclosed front porch in the 900 block of St. Anthony Avenue and briefly conferred in the dark before knocking on the door to determine whether anyone had heard anything

I will kill you, a man was heard saying from the other side of the door.

I just heard I will kill you,andthinsp; one of the officers said.

Hughes opened the door and walked onto the porch with a handgun in his right hand. The officers screamed at him to put his hands in the air multiple times as he stood facing them. Hughes raised the gun into the air and pointed it at the ceiling before the officers fired at him several times.

Hughes fell to the floor, the gun still in his hand as the officers reported shots fired.

Axtell released the videos after first viewing them with Hughes family. He also waited until the BCA interviewed all key witnesses.

Search warrant affidavits filed in the case showed that the day he was killed, Hughes reportedly fell out of his elevated bed, grew angry, fired two gunshots in the apartment and pointed the gun at his roommates head.

Court documents also showed that he had reportedly contemplated suicide. Relatives explained that Hughes had an ongoing medical condition that limited his quality of life. [Hughes] medical condition was diagnosed as a terminal illness, the affidavits said.

Chao Xiong 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

Update hourly