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$3M bail set in cop’s killing

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HASTINGS — Handcuffed to a wheelchair and wearing a cast and a hospital gown, the man accused of killing a Mendota Heights police officer appeared for the first time Friday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.

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One thing made clear in the hearing: Brian Fitch Sr. won’t be free any time soon.

Prosecutors argued for and secured $3 million bail for Fitch, 39. And as his defense attorneys pointed out, the matter was academic: Fitch can’t pay; he’ll be held without bail on a probation violation and is going back to prison for time owed on a previous offense.

Fitch is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 30 shooting death of officer Scott Patrick, 47. Prosecutors say he killed the 19-year veteran officer during a traffic stop in West St. Paul, then fired at police when they tracked him down that night.

The defendant did not speak in court Friday. As he slumped in the chair with his gaze down for much of the hearing, public defender Lauri Traub raised concerns about whether he was coherent enough to understand the proceedings.

Fitch has been hospitalized since he was shot eight times during his arrest. He has undergone at least one surgery, according to court records. Traub said he was given pain medication Friday morning.

She said he was lucid when she met with him last week in the hospital, but “I think the court can see his condition.”

Prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz, the chief deputy Dakota County attorney, said Fitch was coherent enough to converse with law enforcement officers earlier in the day.

After observing Fitch react during the court proceedings, District Judge Mary J. Theisen said he seemed aware of what was happening.

“I think it is his choice to be acting like this,” she said.

In arguing for high bail, Prokopowicz cited Fitch’s extensive criminal record, the serious nature of the charges and the life sentence Fitch faces if convicted of first-degree murder.

Fitch was wanted on several warrants when Patrick stopped him, prosecutors say, and faced years in prison if apprehended.

“I can’t think of a more dangerous individual,” Prokopowicz said.

The judge granted the bail request — $3 million without conditions or $2.5 million with.

Theisen also ordered Fitch held without bail for a probation violation and turned over to the Minnesota Department of Corrections to serve the balance of a previous sentence for a Washington County burglary.

Fitch was imprisoned on that conviction in June 2013. He was released into a drug treatment program in February, but was kicked out in May and slipped away from law enforcement supervision.

The sentence runs until May 2015, according to prison records. After Friday’s hearing, he was taken to the Oak Park Heights maximum security prison, where he’ll remain until his next court date.

Fitch also faces charges for attempted murder, assault and gun crimes in Ramsey County for his confrontation with police during his arrest. A rare multicounty grand jury will convene in September to review the charges and consolidate the cases.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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