Three years ago, a teen was shot multiple times and killed by Woodbury, Mn. police during a tense standoff. A tragic case of mistaken identity, police confused Mark Henderson for the gunman who had actually taken him hostage. The St. Paul Pioneer Press says the three officers who shot Henderson were cleared of wrongdoing, the case was closed and the hostage-taker convicted. The highly publicized case does not exist in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s database that tracks shots fired by law enforcement officials. The database said Woodbury officers didn’t fire a single incident-related round all year long in 2012. As national scrutiny of fatal police shootings grows, the BCA’s discharge database has been picked over by media outlets hoping to draw conclusions about such shootings in Minnesota.
Bureau officials say they have no database specific to fatal police shootings, making their firearms discharge database, which categorizes some incidents as “fatalities,” the next-best thing. There’s one big problem: Like a national database kept by the FBI, the bureau’s database has flaws that make drawing any conclusions from it problematic. A Pioneer Press analysis found four fatal police shootings in the past decade that were not recorded in the database as “fatalities.” In fact, no record exists in the database of any shots fired for at least three of those cases, including Henderson’s. That’s in part because, like the FBI’s database, the state relies on local agencies to report the information themselves. It’s a methodology that national law enforcement officials have determined to be inadequate.