An autopsy report revealed last week that Daniel Aaron Fuller was shot in the back of the head in an officer involved shooting and his family is now demanding answers. Twenty-six-year-old Fuller, of Devils Lake in North Dakota, was shot at the back of his head by a police officer on July 5 after being chased by plainclothes police officers. The Devils Lake Police Department has not revealed the name of the shooter.
According to Devils Lake Police Chief Joe Knowski, two plainclothes officers responded to reports that a man was trying to burglarize mobile homes in Southview Estates. The description given fitted Fuller, who ran and scaled a fence on sighting the police. The police gave chase before one of them fatally shot him, whether or not a struggle occurred before the shooting is debated. The police officers were not wearing body cameras because they were plainclothed.
The Devils Lake Police Department said they are not able to release the names of officers connected to the incident, on the advice of the Ramsey County State’s Attorney Kari Agotness. Although the officer who shot and killed Fuller has been placed on administrative leave, the others invoked Marsy’s Law to keep their names secret from the public.
Investigators Told Fuller’s Family He Was Pistol-Whipped Before Being Shot
While the officers weren’t wearing body cameras, the dash cam of a Devils Lake police cruiser captured part of what transpired. However, the video is yet to be released to the public.
Grand Forks Coroner Mary Ann Sens conducted an autopsy on Fuller at the UND Forensic Pathology Practice Center. Her report determined that Fuller was shot in the back of his head and the bullet wound was blackened with soot. There were signs that he suffered blunt force injuries to his head.
The autopsy report also said “the discharge of the firearm was apparently inadvertent,” but the injury was “inflicted by another person during an intentional and harmful act directed at the decedent” and found “the manner of death was certified as homicide.”
Sens made it clear that though Fuller’s death was obviously a homicide, it is the duty of a court to determine if it was a criminal homicide. Homicide alone simply means that a death was caused by a human.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation reportedly told Fuller’s family that police found Fuller lying in the grass and that her son was pistol-whipped by an officer three times before being shot. Investigators told Fuller’s family that the dashcam video shows a brief struggle prior to the shooting.
Marla Fuller, Daniel Fuller’s mother, said investigators told her it appeared Daniel Fuller had his arms out while sitting “like he was surrendering” before he was shot.
“It’s just been a nightmare,” Marla Fuller said.
The police department and the Office of the Attorney General, as well as BCI officials, have declined to comment on the matter, stating detailed information will only be publicly released after investigations are completed. But Fuller’s family does not believe there is ever going to be a fair trial, stating the police may not be objective in prosecuting one of their own.
“It’s been 50 days since Danny was shot and killed by an officer of the Devils Lake Police Department,” Marla Fuller said. “We are still waiting for answers. We want to know why this officer has not been named.”
Fuller’s sister, Allyson Bartlett, said her brother must have panicked on sighting the police because there was a pending warrant for his arrest.
The warrant was in connection to a property theft late last year. Earlier in 2012, Fuller admitted to drunk driving and a separate burglary incident. There was another 2014 case filed against him when he was involuntarily hospitalized after a suicide attempt. He woke up angry and pushed a nurse at the Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, for which he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
Fuller’s sister said he had troubles but wasn’t a violent criminal. “It seemed like when he made bad choices, it was always just always an extreme for him,” she said.