Fitch held in Oak Park Heights prison until murder trial

Brian Fitch will be held in Oak Park Heights prison pending his trial for the murder of Officer Scott Patrick.

HASTINGS, Minn. -- Brian Fitch will be held in the Oak Park Heights prison, rather a county jail, while he awaits trial on the charge of murdering a police officer.

Fitch arrived at the Dakota County Courthouse Friday under heavy guard and entered the courtroom handcuffed to a wheelchair wearing a hospital gown. He did not speak during his first formal court appearance, but did rattle his handcuffs on a few occasions as previous cases were being listed by a prosecutor.

Fitch is charged with murdering Mendota Heights Officer Scott Patrick on July 30, during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop during broad daylight on a busy corner in West St. Paul. Officer Patrick's funeral Aug. 6 drew thousands of onlookers, well wishers and fellow law enforcement officers.

Dakota County Chief Deputy prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz sought $25 million bail, telling the judge, "I can't think of a more dangerous person."

Prokopowicz pointed out that Fitch told officers in the hospital that he hates police. The prosecutor also referred to a statement a witness gave to investigators, that Fitch said he was willing to assault any officer who tried to stop him.

Judge Mary Theisen set bail at $3 million on the murder charge and ordered Fitch held without bond on a probation violation from 2012. In other words, Fitch will be hailed without the opportunity to post bail.

Theisen also granted a prosecution request to transfer custody of Fitch to the Dept. of Corrections pending trial, and by Friday afternoon Fitch was already listed on the roster at Oak Park Heights Prison.

The reasoning is that Fitch "owes the court time" due to a probation violation, so he'll get credit for time served. Fitch will also be able to get medical care at the prison for the bullet wounds he sustained in a shoot-out with St.Paul police the night he was arrested.

Public Defender Lauri Traub asked the judge to delay Friday's hearing because it appeared to her that Fitch was too incoherent to follow the proceedings and understand the charges. He appeared to be unresponsive to her as she leaned over and tried to explain something to him. Traub said she didn't know whether it was caused by his wounds or the medication he was taking.

But the prosecutor said Fitch had asked deputies several questions on the ride down to Hastings about where he was being moved and whether there would be adequate medical care available.

Theisen decided to move ahead with the bail hearing based on that statement and her own observation of Fitch's demeanor in the courtroom. The judge didn't set another court date because that will depend on the outcome of the grand jury process expected to begin in September.

Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi have been granted permission to convene a rare multi-county grand jury to expedite the prosecution of Fitch. He faces multiple charges of attempted murder in Ramsey County, stemming from a shootout with police in Saint Paul the night he was arrested.


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