St. PaulPoliceFatally Shoot Woman During 'Suicide in Progress' Call

St. Paul police officers responded to a "suicide in progress" call, fatally shooting 41-year-old Pepsi Lee Heinl after she pointed a handgun at them. The incident is under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Nitish Verma
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St. PaulPoliceFatally Shoot Woman During 'Suicide in Progress' Call

St. PaulPoliceFatally Shoot Woman During 'Suicide in Progress' Call

On Monday night, St. Paul police officers responded to a 'suicide in progress' call at a home on the 1100 block of Rose Avenue East, where they fatally shot 41-year-old Pepsi Lee Heinl. The incident unfolded rapidly, with officers opening fire less than 25 seconds after entering the room where Heinl was located.

According to body camera footage released by the St. Paul Police Department, officers Chiking Chazonkhueze, Chee Lao, and Yengkong Lor arrived at the scene after Heinl's mother called 911, screaming, "My daughter is committing suicide" and pleading, "Hurry, please" before the call cut off. Upon entering the home, the officers were directed to a back room by Heinl's mother, where they found Heinl sitting on the floor.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the complexities and challenges that law enforcement faces when responding tomental health crises and suicide calls, emphasizing the need for improved training and resources to navigate these situations. It also underscores the importance of addressing mental health issues and providing adequate support systems to prevent such tragic outcomes.

The footage shows Heinl's mother telling the officers that her daughter wasn't okay and that her mouth had turned blue. When asked if she had taken any drugs, Heinl rapidly reached under a blanket, pulled out a handgun, and pointed it at the officers. All three officers immediately opened fire, striking Heinl multiple times. Despite life-saving efforts, Heinl died at the scene from her wounds.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is currently investigating the incident and will present its findings to the Ramsey County Attorney's Office once the investigation is complete. A handgun and casings were recovered from the scene. The three officers involved, who have varying levels of law enforcement experience, are on standard critical incident leave pending the investigation's outcome.

St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry expressed his condolences to Heinl's family and friends, stating, "Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Pepsi Lee Heinl. No one wanted this to happen; not the families or our officers. This is a tragedy that will stay with all of them for the rest of their lives." Henry emphasized the unpredictable nature of the situation and the challenges first responders face in such incidents.

Mayor Melvin Carter also offered his condolences and praised the officers' quick response, saying, "We hold our police to the highest standard of accountability and transparency, which is why we are releasing the body-worn camera footage immediately after the family had the opportunity to review it." The released footage, while disturbing, provides a clear account of the events leading to the tragic shooting.

Heinl, also known as Pepsi Benjamin, was born in Duluth and attended Century College in White Bear Lake. She worked as a security guard and is survived by her son, parents, and sister. Tribal rites are planned for Sunday at a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe ceremonial building in McGregor, Minnesota.

The fatal shooting of Pepsi Lee Heinl highlights the complex challenges law enforcement faces when responding to mental health crises and suicide calls. As the BCA continues its investigation, the St. Paul community mourns the loss of a life cut short under tragic circumstances. Chief Henry emphasized the need for continued training and resources to help officers navigate these difficult situations, stating,"Officers in our city and cities all across the country go to thousands of these types of calls every year."