An Eden Prairie police officer who accidentally shot a man in the arm, following a high-speed chase, blames the mistake on the “high stress” of the situation and “muscle memory” from training 20 days before the shooting.
The shooting happened on June 20, 2015. Sergeant Lonnie Soppeland had been pursuing Matthew Hovland-Knase at speeds above 110 miles per hour, according to police reports. At one point, Hovland-Knase pulled the motorcycle over and Soppeland emerged from his squad car with his gun drawn.
In video of the shooting, there is the sound of a gun shot, followed by Soppeland uttering expletives, and Hovland-Knase moaning and saying “I’m bleeding.” Within seconds of the shooting, Soppeland gathers medical supplies and provides first aid. He also apologizes.
“Oh, you actually shot me, didn’t ya? Hovland-Knase asks. “I’m not going to say anything right now, but was not intentional. I can tell you that,” Soppeland replies. “I know it wasn’t,” says Hovland-Knase.
Hovland-Knase was later convicted of fleeing an officer, according to court records.
Soppeland was investigated by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Three days after the shooting, Soppeland told a detective, “As I was giving commands, I drew my firearm with my right hand, I planned to steady it with my left hand. When my hands made contact, the firearm discharged once unintentionally. It was not my conscious choice...I could feel the effect of the adrenaline.”
The detective asked whether firearm training 20 days before the shooting, when Soppeland fired 50 to 100 rounds, was a factor. Soppeland answered, “Yes, I feel the muscle memory from that recent training of squeezing the trigger contributed to the unintentional discharge during a high stress situation.”
Several people familiar with law enforcement firearm training told that they had not heard of other accidental shootings partially blamed on muscle memory from training, but did say that the high stress of a chase can be a factor.