Minneapolis police officer will not face charges in Mario Benjamin shooting

Monday,

Following an extensive investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension into the fatal shooting of Mario Benjamin, the evidence presented to our office does not support filing charges against Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Wolff, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

“After a detailed review and evaluation of all evidence presented to our office, we have determined that the deadly force used by Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Wolff was not criminal and was objectively reasonable and necessary in order to protect himself, Minneapolis Police Officer Davis, the woman, and her children,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman stated.

“Mario Benjamin was a dangerous individual. He senselessly shot his former partner in front of their children. The gunshot wound left the woman paralyzed from the waist down for a significant period of time. He also refused to submit to repeated police requests to drop his weapon. The evidence mandates that we not file charges.”

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

At approximately 2:45 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2019, Minneapolis Police Officers Jason Wolff and Ryan Davis were alerted that ShotSpotter detected one round fired near the intersection of 25th Ave. N. and Emerson Ave., three blocks from where they were on patrol.

As Officers Wolff and Davis drove there, they received another ShotSpotter from that location. MPD dispatch then notified the officers that a 911 caller reported someone being shot in the same vicinity. The officers then turned on their squad car video as well as their body worn cameras, which would capture the entire incident.

When Officers Wolff and Davis arrived on scene, they noticed a woman lying in the middle of the street with a man later identified as Mario Benjamin hovering over her motionless body. The woman’s 13-year-old child stood nearby. The woman was Benjamin’s former romantic partner of several years, and mother to his children, ages 5- and 6-years-old.

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation of the shooting, agents learned that the woman planned on relocating to North Dakota with her four children. Benjamin was the father of two of them. She was dropping Benjamin off at friend’s home near 25th Ave. N and Emerson Ave.—where he was to stay temporarily—when a fight erupted between she and Benjamin.

Outside the van the woman and her children were traveling in, Benjamin fired twice at the woman, hitting her once in the upper right chest. The BCA investigation found that the gunshot wound caused a severe spinal cord injury that left the woman temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. The woman would later spend significant time in the hospital as a result of the shooting.

Body worn camera video shows that as the officers left their squad car and walked towards Benjamin and the woman, they asked Benjamin where the woman was shot, to which he merely replied, “She shot.” Officer Wolff then crouched over the woman to examine the injuries she sustained with Benjamin kneeling close by. Officer Davis stood nearby as well, looking at the woman to assess her wounds.

According to statements from Officers Wolff and Davis, when they first arrived on scene, they initially believed Benjamin was assisting the woman and was not the shooter. It was when the officers were checking the woman that Benjamin stood up and they realized a tan pistol was in his right hand and concluded that he had shot the woman.

Both officers immediately unholstered their firearms, with Officer Wolff pointing his gun at Benjamin, commanding him to “drop the gun” as he separated himself from Benjamin and the woman. Officer Davis meanwhile moved away from Benjamin towards the squad car with his firearm drawn. Body worn cameras captured the officer’s multiple requests for Benjamin to drop the gun with him ignoring their directives.

As Officer Wolff was commanding Benjamin to drop the gun, two additional children of the woman were present: a six-year-old whose father was Benjamin, and a 15-year-old, unrelated to Benjamin. Body worn camera video shows that the 15-year-old removed the six-year-old from the scene, where they went behind the van.

With Benjamin’s continued refusal to drop the gun despite repeated demands, Officer Wolff reasonably believed that Benjamin posed an immediate danger to the children, both officers, and the woman, who needed life-saving medical attention. Taking necessary, protective action to ensure the safety of those on-site, Officer Wolff fired six shots at Benjamin, striking him at least five times in the body.

Officer Davis quickly walked over to Benjamin who lay on the street, kicked the handgun out of his reach, and handcuffed him. Officer Wolff immediately tended to the woman, asking where she was shot and if she was okay. The woman stated, “I can’t feel my leg,” and asked for help.

Responding MPD officers arrived less than a minute after the shooting and secured the area. Additional officers and medical personnel administered emergency medical care to Benjamin. MPD officers also checked on the wellbeing of the children and discovered that another child, a 5-year-old of Benjamin’s and the woman’s, was in the back of the van asleep during the shootings.

Following the incident, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Benjamin and found that he suffered seven gunshot wounds, some which were likely caused by the same bullet. The medical examiner recovered five intact bullet fragments from Benjamin’s body.

Toxicology test results from Benjamin revealed that he had amphetamine, methamphetamine, naproxen and THC in his system during the time of the shooting.

Two days following the altercation, on Aug. 4, Officer Wolff provided a voluntary statement to investigators from the BCA. Officer Davis provided a statement less than six hours after the shooting. Both officers’ statements were consistent with their body worn camera videos in all significant respects.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathy to the woman and her children during this difficult time,” Mike Freeman stated. “The shooting by Benjamin caused tremendous grief for everyone involved. Officer Wolff’s actions saved the woman and protected her children.

“Now that the case has ended, we ask that the public respect the privacy of the woman and her family.”

Hennepin County Attorney's Office Report (PDF)

Victim Impact Statement (PDF)

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Case Evidence