St. James assistant chief fired on assailant in shooting

ST. PAUL — St. James’ Assistant Police Chief Rochelle Hanson has been identified as the St. James officer who shot and killed Gilberto Salas, 20, during a confrontation in St. James on Wednesday.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) identified Hanson, Trooper Jacob Ruppert and Sergeant Barry Gulden as the three officers involved in the shooting..

Hanson has been in law enforcement for 18 years, including 14 years with the St. James Police Department. She fired her Taser and her firearm.

Ruppert, who has been in law enforcement for 11 years, including one year with the Minnesota State Patrol, fired his Taser.             

Gulden, who has been with the Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years, also fired his Taser.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner identified Salas Friday. He died of multiple gunshot wounds.

According to the BCA’s account of the incident, Nicollet County sheriff’s deputies spotted a vehicle at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday in Lafayette that was earlier reported stolen in New Ulm. A pursuit ensued that included deputies with the Nicollet, Blue Earth and Brown County sheriff’s departments, the New Ulm and North Mankato police departments and the Minnesota State Patrol. The pursuit reached speeds up to 120 miles per hour and wound through Nicollet and Blue Earth counties. Investigators were able to identify the driver as Salas and they called off the pursuit for safety reasons after he evaded officers at Highway 68 and 15 south of New Ulm.

At approximately 1 p.m., officers spotted Salas driving the vehicle in St. James in Watonwan County. Salas fled at speeds estimated at 60 miles per hour through residential neighborhoods. Officers pulled back but continued to follow the vehicle until Salas’ vehicle became stuck in a snow bank. Salas then fled on foot into the Casey’s General Store at 620 2nd Avenue South. A female acquaintance of Salas who was a passenger in the vehicle was not involved in the vehicle theft and did not enter the store.

According to the BCA’s preliminary investigation, Salas entered the store immediately followed by the officers. Sergeant Gulden fired his Taser, striking Salas. Salas briefly shut himself in an office behind the service counter and soon reemerged carrying a knife. Salas ignored the officers’ commands to drop the knife, Ruppert and Hanson both fired their Tasers, striking Salas again. Salas advanced toward Hanson who shot him with her firearm.

Officers called for an ambulance and immediately rendered medical aid. Salas was taken by ambulance to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in St. James where he was pronounced dead. BCA crime scene personnel recovered a knife from the store floor next to where Salas fell.

Hanson sustained a minor injury to her left hand. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated and released.

Store surveillance cameras and Ruppert’s Taser camera captured portions of the confrontation, but none captured the shooting itself. No officers were wearing body cameras and there is no dash camera footage of the shooting.

All three officers are all on standard administrative leave. The investigation is active and ongoing. When the investigation is complete, the BCA will turn its findings over to the Watonwan County Attorney’s Office for review.

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