MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Court records show a man suspected of killing a Mendota Heights police officer was wanted because he had left a drug treatment program and faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted on a pending drug charge.
Brian George Fitch Sr., 39, was captured Wednesday night after a manhunt following the fatal shooting of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick during a traffic stop in West St. Paul. Police say they may never know the reason for the traffic stop. Police also said they expected the Dakota County attorney’s office to charge Fitch Friday in Patrick’s death. Fitch remained in serious condition Thursday with injuries he suffered in a shootout with police.
Case records examined by The Associated Press on Thursday show Fitch was charged in Dakota County last year with possessing 47.4 grams of methamphetamine. He pleaded not guilty.
In a handwritten letter to Dakota County District Judge Richard Spicer in May 2013, Fitch pleaded for the chance to go to treatment rather than prison for his conviction on charges of terroristic threats and fifth-degree assault. The charges stemmed from an attack on a man Fitch had accused of having a relationship with his girlfriend. That conviction ultimately resulted in a stayed three-year prison sentence and a requirement that he successfully complete a long-term residential treatment program at Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge.
Fitch wrote that he became addicted to “hard core pain killers” including OxyContin after he was shot twice when his shop was robbed in 2008. He didn’t give details of the incident, but said the drugs “led me down a path of destruction.” He said he tried to get off opioids with methadone, but was eventually forced to quit methadone cold turkey. He said that left his emotions imbalanced, so he turned to meth, “and that was the worst decision of my life.”
He also wrote that he was the father of four “beautiful boys” and hoped that treatment would help him become a good father and productive citizen again.
In a follow-up letter, Fitch thanked the judge for the furlough to Teen Challenge and said he was looking forward to it.
“I feel like after all the bad that has happened that I can finally get a solid place to make a brand new start,” he wrote.
Documents show prosecutors were seeking the maximum 30-year sentence in the separate drug case because of his lengthy criminal record, citing his 2000 conviction for second-degree assault in Ramsey County, a 2004 conviction for first-degree burglary in Washington County, and a May 2013 conviction for terroristic threats and fifth-degree assault in Dakota County.
“His past criminal behavior involves a high frequency of criminal activity and long involvement in criminal activity,” Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kevin Golden wrote in a filing notifying the defense of the state’s intent to seek the maximum sentence.
In a letter to Fitch’s public defender last September, Golden offered a plea deal for a sentence as short as 13 years and two months if he accepted quickly enough.
But the docket indicates Fitch never changed his plea, and it wasn’t clear from the court records if the offer was still on the table when Fitch was furloughed to Teen Challenge on Feb. 24. Monica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Dakota County attorney’s office, said she didn’t immediately know.
Teen Challenge spokeswoman Pati McConeghey said Fitch “elected to walk away from our program in May. We informed the proper authorities.”
The arrest warrant was issued June 6 after Fitch failed to appear at a probation violation hearing. A filing from Dakota County Community Corrections dated June 24 said he had violated the terms of his probation by failing to complete treatment and “failure to abide by rules and conditions of probation by absconding from supervision.”
Corrections Department spokeswoman Sarah Lautusek said Fitch was sent to the state prison in St. Cloud in June 2013 to serve a 41-month sentence for his burglary conviction “after a lengthy failed probationary period,” with credit for 585 days already spent in jail. He was transferred to the state prison in Rush City last September, then released Feb. 5 to Dakota County on the drug charge. She said he was released to residential treatment Feb. 24.