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‘This was unnecessary.’: Girlfriend of Moorhead suspect shot at by officer speaks out

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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MOORHEAD, M.N. (Valley News Live) - Two women are speaking out tonight on a Moorhead officer-involved shooting from earlier this month, with claims police fired multiple times at a man who they state was unarmed, had his arms in the air and was trying to surrender. However, dispatch audio from that day paints a much different picture.

Moorhead Police say they responded to the 2500 block of 4th Ave. N. just after 3 p.m. on July 4 for suspicious activity, which was followed by a short foot pursuit and Moorhead Officer Andrew Werk firing his gun.

23-year-old Isiah Hopkins was later arrested and is now in prison in St. Cloud on unrelated charges.

Within less than an hour of Taylor Matilton and her boyfriend waking up on July 4, police and investigators were swarmed around their Moorhead neighborhood with Hopkins in handcuffs.

“We didn’t wake up until 2:30 in the afternoon and he was booked at 3:24. We weren’t even up a full hour when all of this happened,” Matilton, Hopkin’s girlfriend of about six months said.

Matilton says Hopkins was at her home nearly every day, so her neighbors know exactly who he is. Therefore, Matilton says police’s claims of a ‘suspicious person’ are ‘impossible.’

Matilton’s roommate, Allison Pleinis states at least two officers were already in the area around 11:30 that same morning, and states police appeared to be looking for someone. Neighbors have told Valley News Live similar stories in the days since the incident, however, none of them wanted to go on camera.

Matilton says just before 3 p.m., she looked out the window after she hadn’t heard Hopkins’ motorcycle start. She said it had been about 10 minutes since he left the house and he had planned to put new stickers on his bike, as well as ride his bike around.

“And I just saw the cop car with the door open, but I didn’t see anybody,” Matilton said.

So, Matilton says she turned on the police scanner.

Valley News Live also listened to the scanner traffic from that afternoon:

“There’s a gun!” one officer shouts. “Watch cross fire! Watch cross fire!”

“Emergent. Fourth Avenue North. 24th Street North where a foot pursuit began. There were shots fired,” a dispatcher later called out.

“Back up! Back up!” an officer yells.

“Have the dogs come in on the north side. I’m in the parking lot just south. They have rifle on him,” another officer radios.

Matilton and Pleinis say Hopkins admits to running from officers and regrets doing so, but calls what happened next ‘unnecessary.’

“He hid behind something, but that was too hot. When he got up to run again, there was a cop car, so he pretty much stopped and he put his hands up,” Pleinis recalled of Hopkins’ account. “He said he had a black glove on, but that was for riding his motorcycle. He put his hands up and said, ‘No, no. I’m not armed! I’m not armed!’ And the cop screamed at him and then he started shooting at him.”

Both women state in the year or so that they have known Hopkins, they’ve never seen him have a gun or heard him talk about one. However, at the time of the incident, Hopkins did have a warrant out for his arrest relating to a previous weapons charge.

Court documents filed in January 2021 state Officer Werk was on patrol when he saw a vehicle with a smashed out window. When Werk turned on his emergency lights, Hopkins rammed his patrol car and fled. However, documents say the suspect vehicle was disabled and both the female driver and Hopkins fled the area on foot.

The female was soon arrested and told officers that Hopkins had a gun on him, documents say. However, when Hopkins was arrested he didn’t have a firearm on him or in the suspect vehicle.

Documents say a review of squad car footage showed Hopkins fell in a yard when he was being chased on foot. Officers went back to the area and found a .22 pistol in the yard. Hopkins later admitted to disposing of the gun, documents say.

As of this publication, officials have not released information, and have been unable to confirm if Hopkins was armed on July 4 or not.

Matilton says Hopkins knew he had an open warrant, which was issued on May 20, but she states Hopkins wasn’t ready to turn himself in yet. However, Matilton says he ‘wasn’t exactly hiding himself by any means’ either.

Matilton and Pleinis went on to say heroin played a large role in the trouble Hopkins found himself in, but state he had been trying hard to stay sober.

“Yes, they had a right to chase him. Yes, they had a right to, if he was fighting, they would have a right to use force. And if he would have had a weapon, they would have had a right to protect themselves. This was an unarmed human being with his hands in the air. These were children that saw it. That’s why we’re reaching out, because it didn’t need to happen this way,” Pleinis said.

Officer Werk remains on administrative leave as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, BCA, say the investigation is still open. Officials say no one was struck by the gunfire or injured that day. So far, the BCA has not yet forwarded any recommendations to the Clay County Attorney. Both the BCA and Moorhead Police are unable to comment on open investigations.

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