by CHRIS ROGERS
A local jury found Daryl Scott Jackson, 56, of Lanesboro, not guilty of assaulting a Winona Police officer. Prosecutors charged Jackson with second-degree assault for allegedly pointing a handgun at Winona Police Officer Doug Inglett during a traffic stop during the early morning hours of July 2, 2016. Seconds later, Inglett shot Jackson in the neck, according to court documents. Inglett testified that Jackson pointed the gun at him; Jackson testified he did not. Video evidence was inconclusive. After several hours of deliberation last Tuesday night, the jury found Jackson not guilty of assault.
After being followed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who suspected him of driving while impaired, Jackson was pulled over by Inglett on Garvin Heights Road after midnight on July 2, 2016. Squad car footage from the stop shows that, after asking Jackson for his license and insurance, Inglett drew his weapon and pointed it at Jackson, yelling, “Get your [expletive] hands up! Gun! Gun! Get your [expletive] hands up!” The video does not show what is happening inside the car. Inglett told the jury that Jackson raised his gun and pointed it at Inglett’s head and chest. Inglett said that he feared for his life.
Jackson testified that he did pick his gun up off the floorboard, but never pointed it at Inglett. Jackson said he was trying to tell the officer he had a permit to carry, and he intended to give the officer his gun. “I wanted him to have my gun so there was no problem,” Jackson stated.
Inglett fired numerous shots at Jackson as he ran back toward his squad car for cover. Winona Police Officer Wade Anderson, who had just arrived, also fired at Jackson. Anderson testified that, in that moment, he thought Jackson had fired at Inglett and possibly wounded Inglett, though it was later determined that Jackson never fired the gun. A flurry of gunfire struck Jackson’s vehicle, and one bullet hit him in the neck. According to Jackson, it passed laterally through the nape of his neck. “The defendant displayed deadly force, so the officers responded with deadly cover,” Assistant County Attorney Christina Galewski told the jury in her closing argument.
As the bullets flew, Jackson drove off, leading police on a vehicle chase all the way to Interstate 90 and Highway 43. A deputy deflated Jackson’s tires with stop sticks, and a lengthy standoff on the interstate onramp ensued, with police negotiators trying to get Jackson to surrender and a Winona County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) sniper trained on Jackson.
Jackson eventually surrendered without incident. He was treated for his wound, and a deputy found his unloaded handgun on the passenger seat of his vehicle.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to come up with,” jury foreperson Craig Olson said in an interview. The jury considered nearly five days of testimony and evidence before entering deliberations. “We went back and forth and had a lot of discussion on it,” Olson explained. Ultimately, the 12 jurors reached a unanimous decision that Jackson was not guilty of assault.
“The timing of the video did not line up with what the officers said,” Olson stated. Inglett and the off-duty deputy, Les Ladewig, testified that Inglett drew his gun as he was backpedalling away from Jackson’s vehicle. The video showed that Inglett drew his gun while still standing at Jackson’s driver’s side window and that Inglett, while standing there, reached through the open window to point his gun at Jackson. Defense attorney Kurt Knuesel’s closing argument highlighted inconsistencies in Inglett’s testimony, and made a special point to note that Inglett apparently did not remember reaching through the window to point his gun at Jackson. “That’s a big deal,” Knuesel stated.
After Inglett and Anderson both fired an initial volley at Jackson, Inglett ran around a squad car and started firing a second volley while Anderson held his fire. Anderson testified that he did not believe there was an imminent threat at that moment. Inglett testified that he started shooting again because he saw that Jackson was moving as if he was about to get out of the vehicle and, possibly, fire on the officers. However, other officers testified and photographic evidence indicated that the rear window was so covered with dust that it was opaque. The video showed — contrary to Inglett’s testimony — that Inglett started shooting his second volley just after Jackson started driving away. “[Anderson] stopped shooting. He reassessed. He says there was no threat … But Inglett sees a threat that’s not there,” Knuesel argued.
Meanwhile, Olson found that there were several consistent details in Jackson’s account of that moment: “His story — the sequencing of it, how it happened, how Inglett put his arm into the car, and how Inglett pushed him away.”
It all led Olson to believe that, “The gun — one way or another — was not pointed at [Inglett]. Did Jackson touch the gun? Absolutely. Was it a poor choice? Absolutely.”
To convict Jackson, the jury would have needed to find that, beyond any reasonable doubt, Jackson intended to cause Inglett fear or harm. “We just didn’t feel there was enough there to say he was guilty of this,” Olson stated. “Everyone agreed he made a very, very bad decision, but [was] the intent of it to cause fear or harm to Inglett? We did not find that to be true,” the juror added.
Prosecutors argued that Jackson’s alleged actions were a case of attempted suicide by cop and that Jackson told police negotiators he was depressed and that he wanted to “end it.” Jackson denied this characterization and testified that he meant ending the standoff. Olson stated that footage and audio recordings from the standoff debunked the prosecutors’ theory.
“It was great that Mr. Jackson did get his day in court, and thank God that they did have video evidence and he was able to testify,” Olson said. “We were glad he was able to mount a defense to what the state was saying because it did not happen the way the state said it happened at all,” the juror added.
Jackson’s lesser charges
In addition to the assault, Jackson was charged with fleeing peace officers in a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated (DWI), and failure to comply with peace officers’ commands. The jury found him guilty of fleeing and failure to comply; the jury found him not guilty of DWI.
Knuesel had argued that Jackson’s flight and initial refusal to surrender was an act of self-defense. Judge Mary Leahy explained to the jury that state law allows citizens to flee police to avoid harm or death, but only if a reasonable person would do so in a similar situation and only if the flight is not excessive. Olson explained that he believed that it was reasonable for Jackson to drive away when officers were shooting at him, but that at some point — after leading multiple squad cars on a miles-long chase, running over stop sticks, and holding out during the standoff — Jackson’s flight became unreasonable and excessive.
The only evidence prosecutors presented of Jackson driving while intoxicated was Ladewig’s testimony that he had driven erratically prior to the traffic stop and other officers’ testimony that he had bloodshot watery eyes and other signs of impairment. Officers testified that they did not conduct any blood, breath, or urine tests to ascertain Jackson’s blood-alcohol content.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled in August. According to Knuesel, Jackson would have faced a minimum sentence of three years in prison if he was convicted of the assault charge. Knuesel said that under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, Jackson is likely to get probation for the lesser charges for which he was convicted.
Reactions to the verdict
Winona Deputy Chief of Police Tom Williams said that he was very proud of the way Winona Police Department (WPD) officers handled themselves during the incident. “I think, personally, I was a little disappointed,” he said of the verdict. “However, I did not observe the entire trial from beginning to end. I appreciate the service of all the jurors and how they took the job seriously and weighed all the evidence and reached the verdict they thought was appropriate.” Williams said he thought WPD officers acted appropriately during the incident. “Obviously, the [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] investigated the actions of the officer and cleared them,” Williams noted.
Williams said that just because the jury found that Jackson was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of intentionally assaulting Inglett does not mean that the officers reacted inappropriately to the situation. “I think in the end it probably came down to intent and whether Jackson intentionally pointed the gun at the officer,” Williams said of the verdict.
“My client feels vindicated by the jury’s verdict regarding the assault,” Knuesel stated. “From the beginning, he has been steadfast in his position that he was not guilty of assaulting Officer Inglett and he is obviously pleased that the jury agreed. While he respects the jury’s decision with regard to the fleeing charge and the failure to follow command charge, he is disappointed that the jury did not recognize that he had no choice but to flee the scene to avoid being shot again.” Knuesel continued, “Officer-involved shootings are obviously very polarizing situations. Many of these cases are never fully sorted out because of the lethal consequences. Too often, only one side of the story is heard. Fortunately, in this case, Scott Jackson survived and was able to tell the jury what happened.”
Knuesel declined to comment on whether Jackson might have grounds for a civil case against the WPD, saying it was not his area of expertise.
Galewski was not available for comment.