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Duluth officer on trial for shooting unarmed man in 2020

April 20, 2022 GMT

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A prosecutor in the St. Louis County trial of a Duluth police officer who shot an unarmed man through the door of his apartment told jurors the defendant repeatedly fired his weapon even as he heard the victim begging for his life.

Prosecutor Aaron Welch told jurors Tuesday during opening statements that Officer Tyler Leibfried had time to think and made a choice to shoot again and again, injuring Jared Fyle on Sept. 12, 2020.

But Leibfried’s attorney, Paul Engh, told the jury the officer was defending himself against what he believed to be the sound of gunshots.

“He thought he was about to be killed,” Engh said. “He fired back. He kept firing to remove the threat. He had a right to defend himself.”

The 30-year-old Leibfried is facing several felony charges, including second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, after shooting Fyle who was on the other side of the closed door at the downtown Kingsley Heights Apartments.

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Leibfried and another officer were helping Fyle’s girlfriend retrieve some belongings from the apartment. Fyle, who prosecutors say was not aware the officers were on scene, clicked the deadbolt and used a hatchet to pound the apartment door closed.

Engh told jurors that it sounded like gunshots to Leibfried who had been on the scene of a 2019 standoff where a colleague was shot and a police dog was killed, the Star Tribune reported.

The trial is expected to continue at least through Friday.