Officials say it’s a "mystery" but a shot fired at a man threatening to commit suicide was a lethal round and not the so-called "beanbag" bullet a deputy intended to fire to merely stun the man.
Polk County officials describe it as a "one in a million" mistake. It happened early Monday morning after a 21-year-old Urbandale man called 911, said he had a loaded gun and intended to kill himself. Deputies tracked the man to a car parked on a cul-de-sac just south of Ankeny.
After three hours of negotiations, the man got out of the vehicle and said he would put his gun on the roof of his car. But it was dark and raining hard. Deputies say they couldn’t see the gun, so the beanbag ammunition was fired to try to stun the man and end the standoff.
Two of the three rounds fired at the man were "nonlethal," but one round was a plastic shell that critically injured the man. He died Tuesday morning at a Des Moines hospital.
Polk County officials have apologized to the man’s family. The deputies involved have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being reviewed by state investigators.
The following statement was issued late this afternoon by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office:
At 1:16 am on Monday June 8, 2009, the Polk County Communications Center received a call from a distraught male who claimed that he had a loaded gun and was going to kill himself. He indicated that he was in a vehicle, however, could not tell the dispatcher his exact location. Officers from the Ankeny Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were able to locate the caller on a cul-de-sac in the 300 blk of N.W. 74th Avenue, using the cell phone GPS system. Once located, deputies requested additional resources to assist with mitigating the situation. A communication specialist began initial talks with the subject identified as Justin Schleuning. The communications specialist was later relieved by trained crisis negotiators from the Metro STAR Team. Two Polk County patrol deputies were deployed to try and get as close to Mr. Schleuning’s car as possible to verify that in fact he was in possession of a gun.
Deputies Dale Petersen and Andy Hunt were only able to get within approximately 40 yards of the vehicle due to the terrain. Deputy Petersen was equipped with a dedicated shotgun that was loaded with less lethal bean bag rounds. Given the weather conditions, time of day, and the terrain, it was not immediately clear if Mr. Schleuning was in the vehicle.
Additional deputies from the Metro STAR Team arrived and were also deployed toward Mr. Schleuning’s car. STAR Team Deputies were also equipped with less lethal ammunition, as well as a ballistic shield.
During the negotiations, Mr. Schleuning was very emotional and insistent that he would not put the weapon down. It should also be noted that at no time during the ordeal did he make threats to anyone other than himself. After 3 hours of negotiations, Mr. Schleuning did exit his car and move toward the trunk area. Mr. Schleuning had reported to the negotiator that he was going to do this and that he would place the gun on top of the car until he retrieved a coat from the trunk. At 4:15 am, as he exited the vehicle and walked to the trunk area, deputies could not confirm if he had in fact placed the gun on the roof of the car. It was raining very hard at the time and was still dark. It was later determined that the gun had actually been placed on the roof of the car as he exited the vehicle.
With negotiations having proved unsuccessful and being fully aware that this may be the only window for a successful resolution to the standoff, deputies Mohr and Petersen fired bean bag rounds at Mr. Schleuning in an attempt to incapacitate him. A total of 3 rounds were fired and Mr. Schleuning fell to the ground. A tactical medic, who was embedded with the Metro STAR Deputies immediately began life saving measures. Ankeny Fire Rescue, who was staged 100 yards away, also arrived and began treating Mr. Schleuning’s wounds. He was transported to Mercy Hospital by the Ankeny medic unit.
During the course of the investigation by DCI Agents and Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that one of the rounds that was fired from Deputy Petersen’s gun was not a less lethal bean bag round. The round, which looks similar to a bean bag round, was in fact a round that is not designed as less lethal.
T he deputies involved have been placed on administrative leave and the investigation is ongoing as we continue to identify how this tragic event occurred. Situations like this are never easy. We strive to do everything in our power to insure the safety of everyone involved and bring these situations to a safe resolution.
Our deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. Schleuning’s family. They have asked that you respect their privacy during this most difficult time.