Wadena County lawyer: Officer used lethal force was justified, no charges in February shootout that left one injured and two dead
The Wadena County Attorney’s Office began a full review of the case on June 21, 2021, after receiving the report from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on June 18.
The shooting involved four men, Shannon Savela, from Sebeka, who allegedly opened fire, first injuring Wadena County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Mayer, his brother David Savela, also from Sebeka, and then the police officer from Sebeka Jason Worm in his bulletproof vest. As David Savela drew his own handgun, Officer Worm fired back, punching David in the chest, killing him. He then exchanged gunshots with Shannon, who later died of his injuries at Wadena Hospital.
Ladd said the decision that the shooting was justified was made after careful application of the “use of lethal force” law.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Activity was the lead agency for the investigation and the information reviewed regarding the gunshot deaths came from the BCA file. The review of the case concerns activity that occurred in rural Wadena County on February 27, 2021, following a traffic stop during the first law enforcement meeting with D. Savela and, later, with S. Savela. In addition to the full reports in this file, there is also over five hours of patrol car and bodywork camera video; and over nine hours of recorded audio interviews, according to the press release from the attorney’s office.
“The entire case submitted to the County Prosecutor’s Office by the BCA has been carefully reviewed and based on this review, that office will not pursue any charges relating to the events of February 27, 2021, for the reasons described in this document. . “, reads the press release.
Under state law regarding the use of lethal force, it is stated that “peace officers shall only use lethal force when necessary for the defense of human life or to avoid harm. serious bodily harm. To determine whether lethal force is necessary, officers must assess each situation in light of the particular circumstances of each case … “
And “the use of lethal force by a peace officer in the performance of his duties is justified only if an objectively reasonable officer believes, having regard to all the circumstances known to the officer at the time and without hindsight, that such force is necessary to protect the peace officer or other person from death or grievous bodily harm … “
The report goes on to detail the traffic stop that led to the shooting. Details of this report were not shared earlier in the case, including the reason for the initial traffic stop – two speeding vehicles.
The report explains that Mayer was on a routine patrol when he spotted two vehicles approaching at high speed. He timed vehicles at 80 mph in a 55 mph zone. He activated his lights and began his pursuit. At this point, a driver, S. Savela, pulled up. D. Savela continued at high speed. In passing this information on to the expedition, Mayer continued to pursue S. Savela. It turned out that he had a civilian out for a walk on that particular evening.
The reason the Savela brothers were accelerating on County Road 12 between Sebeka and Nimrod was not shared in the report.
David continued to 205th Avenue, just west of Nimrod, and turned south. Mayer continued after him with emergency lights, then activated his squad’s siren after he didn’t stop.
A turn on the icy road to 270th Street took David off the road. He attempted to turn around to return to Mayer, but Mayer blocked his path causing David to block.
At this point, Mayer got out of his vehicle and began giving David instructions to stop, but the report says the suspect continued to try to pull away. At this point, David’s brother Shannon arrived and started yelling at the deputy. Mayer ordered him to stay in his vehicle as he continued to force David to comply.
About 4 minutes after his body camera footage begins, Deputy Mayer contacts David and attempts to defuse the situation. During the conversation, David begins to complain about “political conspiracies”, claiming the officer is a “fake law enforcement” mentioning “fake news” and “tampering with the encryption”.
At one point, David said he was “taking matters of national security into his own hands” and that Mayer “was undermining his protections of this nation and its sovereignty by undertaking such a prosecution.” David then told the officer, in a very agitated state, to “step down” and that “Trump is still President, this is his second term!”
At the time of the encounter, David was charged with a hit and run and had a jury trial on the same charge, according to Wadena County court records.
Just after 6 minutes after the body camera footage started, Agent Worm arrived and gave Shannon similar orders to stay in his vehicle. Meanwhile, Mayer continued to work with David, who again attempted to leave the scene almost 9 minutes after the interaction began. Mayer eventually told David he was under arrest and in an attempt to stop him he deployed a Taser which had no effect on him.
With Mayer and Worm wrestling with David, Shannon appeared from the front passenger side of Mayer’s vehicle and after yelling at the officers to withdraw he fired five shots at them, hitting Mayer in the buttocks / lower spine suddenly and, according to the conclusions, he hit his brother David both on the neck and on the buttocks. It is later discovered that Mayer was also shot in his bulletproof vest during this encounter and Worm was shot in the vest either at this point or while retaliating with Shannon.
Police took cover in the front of David’s car and David, who now suffers from gunshot wounds, stood up, pulled a handgun from his belt and turned to the police. At this point, Agent Worm shot David twice in the chest, killing him. David can be seen in video footage drawing his gun. The action was also corroborated by the two officers and the passenger sitting right next to where Shannon was firing his gun in Mayer’s team, according to the findings.
Out of sight of the police car and body camera footage, Constable Worm walked around David’s vehicle and 13 shots were fired within 10 seconds. The report does not specify who fired the 13 shots, although Shannon was shot six times and ultimately died of his injuries at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. He was mainly affected in the chest and thighs.
The report says officers found David dead and then rescued Shannon until an ambulance arrived at the scene.
The attorney’s report explains why Shannon used deadly force to start the shooting.
“It was Shannon who initiated the lethal force, as he first fired his gun at his brother and officers, wounding Deputy Mayer and his brother,” the report said. “Just moments after Shannon shoots the officers, David Savela gets up from the ground, takes his gun, turns to the officers and it is in this context that Officer Worm shoots David twice, as the dangerous and deadly situation is objectively apparent.
“The risk and danger do not end when David is disabled as the officers are always threatened with a new danger from Shannon Savela, it is not known where he is, as Shannon was the aggressor at the ‘origin of the use of lethal force,’ the report continues. “The officers, in the dark of the night, are trying to locate Shannon while maintaining some sort of cover, having previously been the target of Shannon fire.”
Toxicology reports also note that the brothers had methamphetamine, its amphetamine metabolite, and cannabinoids in their systems.