Man acquitted of charges of firing on police team

STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul) Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Date: 08/30/96

Byline: Margaret Zack; Staff Writer

A man who fired at police officers who'd broken down the door to his house to make an early morning search last winter was acquitted Thursday of charges of attempted murder and assault. Orrin Reyes Sr., 50, testified that he thought the officers were robbers planning to kill him and his family. The jury deliberated about nine hours hours before returning a verdict to Hennepin County District Judge Cara Lee Neville. Reyes expressed relief at the verdict, and his attorney, Earl Gray, praised the jury system.

"This the search would not have happened in Edina; only in south Minneapolis with a poor minority person," he said. Members of the Minneapolis Police Department's high-risk warrant team had gone to Reyes' home in the 2400 block of 12th Av. S. at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 19 to look for guns purportedly belonging to Reyes' 14-year-old son. Reyes, who is Mexican and Indian, said he was asleep when police smashed down his back door. He said he did not hear any voices identifying the intruders as police officers. He testified he saw a flash, heard a shot and saw silhouettes. He said he fired a warning shot at the ceiling.

The officers left, and Reyes followed with his hands raised when he heard them identify themselves. Officer Gary Duren, carrying a shield, was the first to enter the house. His shield had a bullet hole in it. He and Sgt. Robert Schnickel, who planned the entry, testified that they did announce they were police officers. Duran said he was attacked by the family's pit bull and fired, killing the dog. Schnickel said he decided that it would be safest to go into the house before dawn when Reyes' son probably could not get to the guns easily. Police found several loaded weapons, cartons of cigarettes, bottles of liquor and $11,800 in a box under Reyes' bed. He admitted that he sold liquor illegally. Assistant County Attorney John Halla told the jury in his closing argument Wednesday that the search was a prudent, well-reasoned plan. "His Reyes claim that he thought they were burglars was after the fact, self-serving," Halla said. But Gray told the jury that when Reyes saw the broken door, heard a gunshot and saw silhouettes he had to assume it was a robber or a killer. "A reasonable person would do what he did, act in self-defense," Gray said.

Reyes is an investigator for a St. Paul law firm and has a remodeling business.

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