Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Man with ties to northwest Minnesota stabs police dog, officers fatally shoot him

ROSEVILLE, Minn. -- Roseville police shot a man to death in an apartment Wednesday night after he stabbed a police dog in the head during a disturbance call, the department said.


ROSEVILLE, Minn. -- Roseville police shot a man to death in an apartment Wednesday night after he stabbed a police dog in the head during a disturbance call, the department said.

One of the two officers who fired, the dog's handler, had seen another police dog stabbed and badly injured in a highly publicized case six years ago. And both had been involved in another fatal police shooting in 2014.

Lt. Lorne Rosand, a Roseville police spokesman, said officers were called to the building at 1610 W. County Road B just west of Snelling Avenue, around 10 p.m. Neighbors said they heard yelling, objects being thrown and glass breaking inside the apartment of a 52-year-old man, who was identified by his family as John Birkeland.

The man, whom police have not named, had a history of "mental outbursts," and residents had been instructed to call police when disturbances happened, Rosand said.

Officers arrived and spoke to the man through the door. He said he was "fine" but sounded distressed, saying he had lost his wallet and was robbed, police said. Officers offered to help; the man did not let them in. They could hear him talking to what they thought was another person.


After the man stopped responding, officers tried to call him. They also learned he had an active warrant in Ramsey County for giving false information to police.

"Based upon the totality of the situation" -- the disturbance, the warrant, the man's statements, his refusal to open the door and the fear someone else might be inside in need of help -- officers decided to force their way in, Rosand said.

A department police dog, Otis, and his handler, officer John Jorgensen, were brought to the scene "to provide less lethal force should it be necessary," Rosand said. Before officers entered, they warned the man they were coming in with the dog.

As officers searched the apartment, the dog pointed them to the bedroom closet. The man was inside. When officers ordered him to surrender, he opened the closet door and stabbed the dog in the head with an 8- to 10-inch kitchen knife, Rosand said.

Jorgensen and officer Kyle Eckert, "fearing for their life and the life of the canine," shot the man. They attempted to stabilize him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man's father, Arlen Birkeland of Gonvick in northwest Minnesota, said he didn't know very much about the circumstances of the shooting and couldn't comment on what happened. He said he would miss his son.

"We sure do love him and miss him very much," Birkeland said. Gonvick is about 40 miles northwest of Bemidji.

The dog was treated at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital and released. He is recovering.


Jorgensen, an 18-year veteran of the force, and Eckert, who has served for four years, were both involved in an October 2014 incident in which they and another Roseville officer shot and killed a man who ran toward them with a rifle at a mobile home park in St. Anthony.

Jorgensen, who was shot in the arm during a December 2008 raid in which the suspect killed himself, was also the handler of Major, a police dog stabbed during an attempted robbery in Maplewood in 2010. The dog lost the use of its back legs and was forced into retirement; the incident spurred a new law that made it a felony to seriously injure a police dog.

Otis replaced Major as Jorgensen's police dog partner. Major lived with Jorgensen before his health deteriorated and he was euthanized in May 2013.

In addition to Jorgensen and Eckert, three other officers who witnessed the shooting have been placed on three-day administrative leave, as is standard procedure. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting.

The Ramsey County medical examiner's office was expected to officially identify the man by Friday.

Rosand said police twice transported him for mental health holds last year, and most recently arrested him in December for giving a false name to an officer. He also reported being the victim of a theft in July.

Jaime DeLage contributed to this report.

What To Read Next
Get Local