Eden Prairie, MN -- On June 15, 2015, Matthew Hovland-Knase was allegedly driving his motorcycle at excessive speeds down a two-way street. After being clocked at speeds over 110 miles per hour, Sergeant Lonnie Soppeland gave chase and pulled him over.
Hovland-Knase did not attempt to run, was unarmed, non-violent, and posed no threat to Soppeland at all when the officer jumped out of his cruiser with his gun drawn. As Soppeland exited the cruiser, he yelled, "Get your hands where I...." BOOM -- and before he could finish the sentence, he'd shot the unarmed motorcyclist.
"I'm bleeding," screams Hovland-Knase after this overzealous cop squeezed off a round into the unsuspecting motorist.
Those who've been trained to use firearms know that you should keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire. If anyone should know this, it's a police officer. But at that moment, on that night, officer Soppeland forget one of the most important rules in handling a firearm.
Immediately after he nearly killed a man, officer Soppeland said, “I’m not going to say anything right now, but was not intentional. I can tell you that.”
Intentional or not, this man fired a deadly projectile at an unarmed individual who meant him no harm.
After Soppeland had been granted a cool down period of three days, he was finally interviewed by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. During the interview, Soppeland told a detective, “As I was giving commands, I drew my firearm with my right hand, I planned to steady it with my left hand. When my hands made contact, the firearm discharged once unintentionally. It was not my conscious choice...I could feel the effect of the adrenaline.”
Notice how he blamed the firearm. According to Soppeland, he did not discharge the firearm, 'the firearm discharged.'
In a loaded question, which was obviously used to steer the investigation in favor of the officer, the detective then asked Soppeland whether firearm training 20 days before the shooting, when Soppeland fired 50 to 100 rounds, was a factor. Soppeland replied, “Yes, I feel the muscle memory from that recent training of squeezing the trigger contributed to the unintentional discharge during a high-stress situation.”
Luckily it wasn't a church van full of innocent children that Soppeland pulled over that fateful night -- as his 'muscle memory' could have killed them.
As soon as the investigation had begun, it was then over -- Soppeland was taken off of paid vacation and immediately placed back on regular duty.
Imagine for a moment that Soppeland was not granted a badge and a uniform from the town of Eden Prairie, and he attempted to use the same excuse for discharging a firearm at an unarmed, nonviolent individual. Do you feel that he would have been granted the same leniency?
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What if Soppeland was the owner of a private shooting range and he accidentally shot one of his customers? Would that shooting range be opened the next day? Would Soppeland ever be able to operate a shooting range again? The short answer is, no. The range would likely be closed down, and Soppeland would be facing charges of negligence, at a minimum.
However, because Soppeland is a police officer, he not only faces no consequences but he was put back out on the street to do it again.
What this case illustrates is that police in America are subject to a different set of rules than the rest of us. Their 'qualified immunity' sets them above the same laws that apply to everyone else, and they are subsequently allowed to cause harm to others without the fear of repercussions.
There was one person who was charged in this incident, however, and that was Hovland-Knase. After being shot by Soppeland, Hovland-Knasewas arrested and convicted of fleeing an officer.
Soppeland's case is hardly unique, cops 'accidentally' shoot people quite often, and get away with it.
Last year, on Thanksgiving night, with his 23-year-old wife, Darien Ehorn in the passenger’s seat, Andrew Thomas left the Canteena Bar and was immediately pursued by Paradise police officer Patrick Feaster.
After Thomas lost control of the SUV, Officer Feaster then gets out of his car, gun drawn, and as Thomas attempts to get out of the vehicle, in a likely attempt to check on his wife, the cop shoots him in the neck.
When backup arrived on the scene, Feaster said nothing of discharging his firearm. For 11 minutes, Thomas lay bleeding out in the vehicle before anyone even found the shot.
Only when the commanding officer on the scene suggested an investigator return to the Canteena to find out if Thomas had been shot at the bar did Feaster reveal he’d pulled the trigger.
In spite of shooting a man in the neck and being caught red-handed trying to cover it up, Feaster faces zero consequences. Last month, Feaster walked.