Charges won’t be filed in officer-involved shooting death in Albert Lea

Published 1:36 pm Friday, June 14, 2019

No charges will be filed in the Jan. 3 officer-involved shooting in Albert Lea that resulted in the death of an Albert Lea man, according to the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the investigation conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Jesus Cantu

The County Attorney’s Office stated evidence does not support criminal charges against any of the officers involved, including Officer Jesus Cantu and Lt. Darin Palmer of the Albert Lea Police Department, who shot and killed Joseph Alan Roberts, 27.

Also at the scene were officers Jason Taylor and Sy Vanthavong and Deputy Police Chief Darren Hanson.

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The Olmsted County Attorney’s Office said to bring charges against a police officer for using deadly force, the state must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s use of deadly force was not justified. Under state statute, officers are justified in using deadly force in the line of duty when it is necessary to protect the officer or another person from apparent death of great bodily harm.

“In this case, the evidence supports the conclusion that Officer Cantu and Lt. Palmer reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to protect themselves and/or others from death or great bodily harm,” a press release states. 

The case was reviewed by the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office at request of the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office.

According to the press release, officers were dispatched to a call involving Roberts engaging in disorderly conduct at a home at 317 Court St. in Albert Lea.

Darin Palmer

Cantu reportedly found Roberts outside near the home, and he fled on foot carrying a large knife, described by Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem as a meat cleaver. Cantu informed the other officers that Roberts had a knife, and due to Roberts’ uncooperative behavior, other officers used less lethal options to detain Roberts, including deploying pepper spray and a Taser, but Roberts continued to aggressively approach Cantu.

When Roberts was approximately one or two steps from Cantu, still swinging the knife toward Cantu, Cantu discharged his firearm, striking Roberts.

Palmer observed that after the first round was fired, Roberts continued to “aggressively approach” Cantu, and Palmer discharged his firearm at Roberts, who then fell to the ground.

The pursuit ended in the north-south section of the alley between Court and West College streets.

The release stated squad video collected during the investigation corroborates the accounts of the officers involved.

The BCA stated in a press release the day after the incident that Taylor received a minor sharp force injury during the altercation and was treated for his injury by Gold Cross Ambulance personnel.

The Olmsted County Attorney’s Office did not provide any additional information on Taylor’s injury.

Joseph Roberts

“Based on the information available to Ofc. Cantu at the time he fired the first round at Roberts, a reasonable officer in Ofc. Cantu’s position would have concluded that deadly force was necessary to protect the officer or another person from apparent death or great bodily harm,” the release stated. “Likewise, a reasonable officer in Lt. Palmer’s position would have also concluded that deadly force was necessary to protect Ofc. Cantu and/or other officers from death or great bodily harm.”

Albert Lea Public Safety Director J.D. Carlson declined to comment about the case.

Family members previously stated Roberts was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and bipolar.

Though officers were familiar with Roberts from previous arrests, the family stated the officers also knew the mental health and chemical use issues he faced and questioned why officers had to shoot him. The family said Roberts wasn’t in his right state of mind at the time of the incident.