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North Dakota trooper cleared in fatal interstate shooting

| October 8, 2021 7:00 AM

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota state trooper who fatally shot a Montana man along an interstate last month has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Morton County State's Attorney's Office determined Trooper Steve Mayer was justified in his use of deadly force against 45-year-old Craig Knutson, of Billings.

Mayer was assisting Morton County sheriff's deputies who attempted to stop Knutson on Interstate 94 west of Mandan on Sept. 7. Knutson, accused of reckless driving, failed to pull over. Mayer used his patrol vehicle to force Knutson to stop.

Knutson's father, Jerry Knutson, also of Billings, told The Bismarck Tribune he had no issues with Mayer being cleared because "he did what he had to do." He said he was thankful his son did not get into a wreck on the highway or shoot an officer. He said there are law officers in the family.

"Why he would think to not stop, I don't understand," he said of his son.

The elder Knutson said his son was "a good man, a good father, a good son," and that what people saw in September was the "bad side of Craig," whose drinking intensified after he was divorced in the last two years.

The Highway Patrol late Tuesday released video of the incident, along with reports from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Morton County Sheriff's Office and the letter from the state's attorney office.

A dispatcher can be heard in Highway Patrol video telling officers that Knutson was threatening to shoot himself. Knutson confirmed to the dispatcher that he had a gun, but has no intention of harming any law enforcement officers.

Mayer can be heard on the video telling Knutson to show his hands and then informing deputies who also were on the scene that Knutson had a gun. Mayer fired one round from his handgun at almost the same time a deputy fired one less-than-lethal round from a shotgun, according to the BCI report.

BCI handled the investigation and turned the case over to the state's attorney's office for consideration of charges.