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No charges against St. Paul officer who fatally shot man who ran at him with a knife

People have left flowers Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, near the St. Paul intersection where Ronald Davis, who is seen in a photo with his wife, was fatally shot by an officer on Sept. 15. Mara H. Gottfried / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Warning: Video includes explicit content.

ST. PAUL — No charges will be filed against the St. Paul police officer who fatally shot a man who rear-ended his squad vehicle and then ran at him with a knife.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office determined Officer Steven Mattson’s use-of-force against Ronald Davis on Sept. 15 was justified under Minnesota law given the circumstances, according to a statement issued Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the shooting, which included reviewing footage of the incident captured police body-cams as well as still photos, according to the county attorney’s office.

Davis can be seen on the video footage running toward Mattson before the officer’s camera spins toward the sky and he is overheard saying “Holy (expletive).” A witness has said she saw Davis throw the officer to the ground.

Then Mattson’s flashlight fell and Davis, 31, can be seen holding a knife in one hand and the flashlight in the other as he continued to run at the officer, who had stood back up.

Mattson shouted, “Get away from me. Drop the knife. Drop the (expletive) knife. Drop the knife!,” and then he shot Davis.

The encounter lasted 12 to 13 seconds from the time Mattson opened his squad door to the shooting. Davis was pronounced dead at the scene on Sept. 15 in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood at Thomas Avenue and Griggs Street.

Investigating officers spoke to Davis’s wife later that evening and she relayed that Davis left in her vehicle the previous day, adding that he has been acting “really weird” at the time, including telling her “you’re going to be a widow,” according to a memo submitted to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi earlier this month by his staff attorneys who reviewed the case.

The memo went on to say that methamphetamine and THC were found in Davis’ body when he died.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office released the memo Thursday afternoon, along with a second one written by Choi that supported his attorneys’ decision.

Investigating officers also interviewed Mattson about what happened. He told them that Davis came at him with “wide eyes” while making noises that sounded like “little grunts.”

Weilding a knife in his right hand, Davis looked like “he was going to stab me,” Mattson told the officers, according to the staff memo.

He said he tried to “create distance” by moving away from Davis and giving him verbal commands to drop the knife, but said Davis didn’t listen.

Instead, he continued to “charge toward him,” the memo continued, prompting Mattson to shoot him twice.

Had he not fired, he told officers he thinks Davis “would have killed (him),” the memo said.

Investigators also interviewed witnesses, one of whom relayed watching Davis “rush the officer’ after ramming his vehicle into the squad, and then “chasing after the officer who kept telling him to stop and then pop, pop, pop,” according to the memo.

He added that he thought the officer’s actions were “clearly provoked.”

Two others witnesses also described watching Davis come after the officer as Mattson directed him to stop, the memo said.