Taking a bite out of crime

Virginia Police Department K-9 officer Nick Grivna poses with his new partner, 20-month-old Teddy, Monday in Virginia. The partners will undergo three months of training and should get to work this summer.

VIRGINIA — Virginia Police Officer Nick Grivna, was honored by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) Monday for his “bravery in the line of duty.” He was given the MPPOA Police Officer of the Year Honorable Mention Distinction.

The MPPOA is an alliance of rank and file officers in Minnesota. The group states that they are resolutely committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics, integrity, honor and courtesy in the policing profession. Municipal police officers, county deputy sheriffs and officers employed by the State of Minnesota make up MPPOA’s membership.

Grivna was recognized for his actions which saved the life of a civilian.

In November 2018, Grivna responded to a hostage situation near downtown Virginia. According to a press release sent on behalf of the MPPOA, “Officer Grivna’s quick thinking, bravery and compassion in a dangerous situation made him an MPPOA honoree this year.”

J. Scot Alan Widmark, a 41-year-old man and enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, forced a woman from her car on the evening of November 27 near Holy Spirit Catholic Church in the 300 block of 2nd Street South in Virginia.

The woman fled and called 911.

Once officers were on the scene, Widmark withdrew a “large knife” from his coat and wielded the weapon “in a very threatening manner,” according to the report from BCA. Widmark then turned and ran southbound on 3rd Avenue where he approached an uninvolved man walking along, put him in a “headlock” with his left arm and brandished the knife with his right arm, according to the report.

Additional police responded to the escalating incident including Grivna with a rifle.

Grivna calmly said, “You know me, it’s Grivna. Put the knife down, it’s not worth it. Put the knife down and I’ll stop.”

Grivna tried to de-escalate the situation but it became clear that the hostage was in imminent danger as Widmark continued to increase his stabbing-like motions toward the hostage.

At 5:09:09 p.m., a report of “shots fired” was logged. Grivna shot 15 feet from the suspect.

“Officer Grivna would later explain to investigators that he was doing everything he could to end the situation peaceably without anyone being injured,” according to the report from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. “The last thing he wanted to do was shoot Widmark. But as Grivna and other officers attempted to defuse the situation, Widmark was brandishing the knife in a manner that indicated he was prepared to inure [the hostage].”

Widmark was taken to Essentia Health-Virginia, where he was pronounced dead on arrival following a gunshot wound to the head.

A toxicology examination of Widmark’s blood would showed the presence of methamphetamine and buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid, in his system, according to the report. His brother would tell investigators that he suffered from “a long term addiction to drugs and depression.”

The hostage was not physically injured.

The incident was investigated. In reviewing the report, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin wrote in a letter to state and local authorities, that Grivna “displayed superb training, courage, restraint, compassion, and professionalism.” He added: “In all likelihood, Officer Grivna’s actions saved a citizen from either serious bodily harm or even death.” The county attorney concluded that Grivna was justified in accordance to Minnesota Statutes Section 609.066, which defines the circumstances in which officers are justified in using deadly force.

Grivna was one of three Minnesota officers honored Monday.

The highest honor, the MPPOA Police Officer of the Year, was awarded to Minneapolis Police Officer Michael Kirchen.

MPPOA Police Officer of the Year Honorable Mention Award was presented to Saint Paul Police Officer Adrian Saffold.

Officials with the Virginia Police Department and Police Chief Nicole Mattson did not return requests for comment as of press time.


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