ST. CLOUD – Eleven months after a St. Cloud police officer was shot in the hand during an altercation in a dark backyard, prosecutors and the defense argued in court Tuesday over the central question in the case.
"Who pulled the trigger?" asked Ole Tvedten, chief of the criminal division at the Stearns County Attorney's Office, during his opening statement at the trial of 19-year-old Sumaree D. Boose.
Boose was charged last June with one felony count of first-degree assault against a peace officer. The encounter ignited rumors of Black men being hit by police gunfire and spurred two nights of violent unrest in the city despite rebuttals from officials.
Defense attorney Jason Migala told jurors Tuesday the case isn't about who pulled the trigger. Rather, it's about whether Boose intentionally assaulted an officer with deadly force, he said.
The complaint states on the evening of June 14, officers observed a Facebook Live video with Boose holding his hands near his pocket in a way so viewers can "clearly see that the item is the size and shape of a handgun."
Officers later saw Boose near the Go For It Gas station at the corner of University Drive and Ninth Avenue South. The complaint states Boose fled when St. Cloud police officer Ryan Priebe confronted him over the handgun, which officers suspected he had illegally without a permit to carry.
Priebe caught up to Boose in a residential yard and tried to arrest him, but Boose resisted. The officer shot his camera-equipped Taser two times and a single gunshot is heard during the struggle. Priebe underwent surgery for his hand, which had 15 separate bullet fragments in it, the complaint states.
Boose also suffered an injury to his chin during the incident. The complaint states it could have been consistent with a bullet grazing his chin after exiting Priebe's hand or with his chin striking the ground.
Priebe and Boose both had 9-millimeter handguns. Priebe's was fully loaded with no round in the chambers, indicating it could not have been fired, the complaint states. Migala said Boose's handgun was found with grass and dirt packed into it, indicating it was underneath him during the struggle. Migala questioned whether Boose would intentionally use deadly force and pull the trigger when the gun was underneath him, knowing it was pointed up at his face. Migala indicated it was more likely an accidental discharge.
Migala also laid the groundwork Tuesday questioning how Priebe first approached Boose. Migala said both Boose and another person at the scene gave statements indicating Priebe threatened to shoot Boose, which is why the handful of Black males near the gas station fled.
Migala described Boose as "an 18-year-old Black boy" in St. Cloud at a time when the country was "wrought by the actions of law enforcement" just weeks after the death of George Floyd. Tvedten told the jurors they have a "credibility determination to make."
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299