St. Louis County attorney won't charge deputy who shot, injured fleeing ATV driver

31 March 2022

DULUTH — The St. Louis County Attorney’s office is declining to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who used deadly force against an all-terrain vehicle driver who was fleeing officers in September 2021 — a decision made following a report from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

There is not sufficient evidence to create a likelihood of conviction, County Attorney Kimberly Maki said in a news release. Deputy Jason Kuhnly fired his gun at Jesse Ferrari, who was injured but not critically, in the early hours of September 28, 2021.

Another deputy first spotted Ferrari and a passenger as they drove without headlights on Commonwealth Avenue. The duo fled, ditching the main road for an ATV trail in Duluth’s Smithville neighborhood. Kuhnly and a police dog, Ranger, joined a foot pursuit and eventually caught up with the vehicle and driver.

Kuhnly told investigators that he tried to hit the ATV’s kill switch, but his arm was pinned to the vehicle when Ferrari reached for the throttle. He was dragged alongside the vehicle and told Ferrari to stop or he would shoot. The bullet reportedly hit Ferrari in the left flank, exited his back and lodged in a plastic storage case on the back of the ATV.

Ferrari, who fell off the vehicle, was later treated and released into custody.

It is standard practice for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate police shootings. The bureau offered the final results to the St. Louis County attorney’s office in March.

There were conflicting stories between the deputy, Ferrari and the ATV passenger about the specifics of how the scene unfolded, but Maki ruled that the evidence was sufficient to show that an “objectively reasonable officer in Deputy Kuhnly’s position could have believed there was a threat of death or great bodily harm,” she wrote.

It was the third deadly-force incident for Kuhnly — who has been cleared in each case. A carjacking suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, not from Kuhnly’s gunfire, in a January 2021 incident in Saginaw, Minn. In 2019, Kuhnly shot and killed a motorcyclist who fled a traffic stop, shot at Kuhnly and was ultimately run over by another deputy. A medical examiner ruled he died of gunshot wounds.

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