County attorney: deadly force by cop justified in Aho case

The Chisago County Attorney’s Office last week announced an officer’s use of deadly force was justified in a shooting incident last summer in North Branch.

On July 8, Chisago County Sheriff’s Office deputies and North Branch police officers responded to a disturbance call at 38090 Feaski Circle just before 9:30 p.m. The caller said Robert Elias Aho, then 46, who lived at the residence, was armed and had threatened his wife with a gun. When officers arrived, Aho remained inside while his wife, sister and step-daughter had already left the residence. The home’s garage door was open.

In follow-up interviews with those at the scene, authorities learned Aho had been acting “weird” and “very strange” when he arrived home shortly after 4:45 p.m. One family member said she had the impression that Aho, a recovering alcoholic who had not consumed alcohol for four years, had been drinking.

Officers were gathered near the garage door when the service door between the home and garage opened. Aho emerged carrying a rifle and a shotgun, with the barrels facing upward. Ignoring repeated instructions to put the weapons down, Aho then lowered the barrel of one of the guns to a shooting position toward the officers.

Deputy Steven Gregory Husmann, then a nine-year veteran of the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office, fired his weapon, striking Aho twice. Aho was airlifted to Region’s Hospital where he later died as a result of the gunshot wounds.

Deputy Hussmann and the other responding officers — Sergeant Robert Berg and Deputy Derek Anklan, both from the sheriff’s office, and North Branch officers Rebecca Lawrence and Kelly Engebretson — were placed on standard administrative leave.

The Chisago County Attorney’s Office found the use of deadly force by Deputy Husmann was justified in its review of the findings from a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation. The BCA investigated the incident at the request of the sheriff’s office.

“Deputy Husmann’s actions in firing his duty weapon were justifiable to protect himself, his fellow law enforcement officers and civilians present from apparent death or great bodily harm,” said the attorney’s office, citing, in part, state statute in a letter to the BCA.

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