Does Minnesota Have a Duty to Retreat Law? What Does It Mean?

minnesota duty to retreat

Getty There is a duty to retreat requirement in Minnesota.

Police are investigating whether the owner of Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry, a store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, may have shot and killed a suspected looter, according to a reporter for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Police said in a press conference that this was only one theory being investigated in the shooting death of a man found lying on a sidewalk near the store. However, they also noted that Minnesota has a “duty to retreat” law that limits such actions in businesses (as opposed to protecting one’s home). According to Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder, “The castle doctrine says if you’re in your home you have a right to stand your ground. It’s my understanding you do have a duty to retreat. Your business is not the same” as your home.

See a graphic showing which states have duty to retreat laws here.

Heavy has now confirmed through jail records that the store’s owner, John Richard Rieple, 59, of Wisconsin, has been booked on a murder accusation. You can read more about Rieple’s background here. The Hennepin County County Attorney told Heavy on June 1 that it has releaed Rieple and deferred a charging decision pending more investigation.

john rieple

Hennepin Co JailBooking information for John Rieple.

However, what does the law say? What is the duty to retreat law in Minnesota?

According to FindLaw, “Minnesota isn’t a stand your ground state. Rather, it’s a duty to retreat state which means that you must back away from confrontation if it’s possible. The state doesn’t have a castle law per se, but it does recognize the principles of the doctrine because Minnesota law allows you to use deadly force, including shooting an intruder, to prevent a felony from occurring in your home.”

That site defines duty to retreat this way: “If the defendant isn’t in their home, Minnesota’s self-defense law requires a ‘duty to retreat’ before using deadly force, but only if retreat is possible and it doesn’t put the person into more danger. Deadly force isn’t authorized (outside of the home) unless there’s a reasonable belief of ‘great bodily harm.'”

See Minnesota statutes here. The “Justifiable Taking of Life” statute reads, “The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor’s place of abode.” There have been moves in the past to remove duty to retreat from the law. See a history of one bill to do just that.

The report about the shooting comes as unrest grows in the streets of Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd, and a viral video that showed a police officer restraining Floyd with a knee to his neck despite bystanders’ pleas that Floyd was in distress. Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe, but his pleas went ignored, and he died a short time later. The police chief fired the four officers at the scene, but unrest continued to grow throughout the night of May 27, 2020.

A very graphic video circulated on social media that appears to show the aftermath outside Cadillac Pawn. Be forewarned that it contains disturbing and graphic images, as you can see a person’s body lying on the sidewalk. Some reports claimed that two people were shot at the pawn store, but police only described one shot person.

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Here’s what you need to know:

The Police Spokesman Brought Up ‘Duty to Retreat’ in a News Conference Discussing the Shooting

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Star-Tribune reporter Libor Jany cited a police source and wrote on Twitter: “Police are investigating a homicide. They say the owner of a nearby pawn shop shot and killed a person suspected of looting his building.” He added, “It reportedly happened at Cadillac Pawn. Still awaiting details. This, from a source within the department.” According to LinkedIn, the owner of Cadillac Pawn is a man named John Rieple. Police have not confirmed, however, whether he is the man involved in the alleged shooting.

In a press conference, John Elder, the public information officer for Minneapolis police, said that a body was found outside the pawn shop around 9:25 p.m. There was a report of a possible stabbing victim. Police then located an adult male in grave condition lying on the sidewalk. Officers immediately began first aid, to include CPR.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived and assisted. Paramedics got through the crowd, and transported the adult male to a hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. The wound was later determined to be a gunshot wound. “At this time, the scene is just finishing being processed by our crime lab and our homicide investigators,” he said. The nature and cause of death will be released later, along with the identity of the victim.

One person, who was not identified, is in custody at this time. The facts of what led up to the shooting are still being sorted out. Two officers arrived and one performed CPR immediately. “This was close to the area of the protests,” said Elder.

Elder called the death a “homicide.” You can watch the police press conference here. It occurred around midnight.

A reporter asked Elder if it was true that “the victim was someone who was looting the Cadillac Pawn shop and the store owner was racing in and took action” and Elder responded, “That is one of the theories we’re looking into.”

He said that police are investigating multiple theories about what happened to the man. “The body was found outside” and there are “a couple of different scenarios that what may have happened. That’s being investigated,” he said. “We want to make sure that we do in fact have all of the facts moving forward. We don’t want to cast aspersions on somebody if in fact they weren’t doing anything wrong.” He declined to spell out the different theories.

Duty to Retreat Doesn’t Extend to a Person’s Own Home But a Business May Be Another Story

Keller Law Offices wrote in a post before the Cadillac Pawn incident, “While many states have enacted ‘stand your ground’ laws, Minnesota does not have a so-called stand your ground law. Instead, Minnesota law imposes a ‘duty to retreat,’ which means that if a person feels threatened, he or she may only use deadly force as a last resort. Conversely, states that have enacted stand your ground laws, like Florida, make it lawful for a person to use deadly force if threatened without a duty to retreat.” The law firm noted, “Minnesota follows the majority rule that there is no duty to retreat in one’s home.”

North Star Criminal Defense explained that “there are four elements necessary for a successful self-defense claim,” listing them as follows:

The defendant was not an aggressor and did not provoke the alleged victim;
The defendant had an actual and honest belief of imminent danger;
A reasonable basis existed for this belief; and
A reasonable means to retreat or otherwise avoid physical conflict were not available.

If a person is in their home, the last element does not need to be met, the site explained, adding that “After analyzing prior cases, the Court of Appeals determined that the Castle Doctrine is limited to just the home and does not include the surroundings.”
US Concealed Carry reports a similar finding, writing:

Minnesota law imposes a duty to retreat. This means that if a person feels threatened, he or she may only use deadly force as a last resort. However, Minnesota is a Castle Doctrine state. Castle Doctrine applies when a person is resisting or preventing an offense which the individual reasonably believes exposes the person or another to great bodily harm or death. It also applies when preventing the commission of a felony in the person’s place of abode. There is no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense or to prevent a felony in one’s home. This isn’t as clear as it appears, however. There are four cases in Minnesota where the duty to retreat was upheld.

It was a night of growing turmoil in Minneapolis. A Target store was looted, and an Autozone store set ablaze. What started out as vigils quickly turned more chaotic in the streets. People were throwing Molotov cocktails, and police were using tear gas, according to live CNN reports. Flash bangs could be heard during the live broadcast. The scenes were starting to resemble the protests of a few years ago in Ferguson, Missouri and other U.S. cities after controversial police-related deaths. KTSP reported that looters left the Target store “with televisions, rugs and other items.”

There was also looting reported at a “tobacco store, a Dollar Tree and a liquor store. Additionally, Cub Foods and an AutoZone is being looted as well,” the television station reported.

The Minneapolis police chief quickly fired Officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers at the scene, but that action hasn’t quelled the growing unrest. Police use of force experts have criticized the restraint used against Floyd.

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Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng were the other three officers present, according to the city.

Floyd’s sister, Vanita Williams-Dabney, wrote on Facebook, “My bro was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day . . . R I.P. bro we will get Justice for u . . . gone2soon . . .loveU4life.”

People tweeted about the Autozone.

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