Year in review: Red Roof incidentWitnesses said the gunfire sounded like a war zone.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
Witnesses said the gunfire sounded like a war zone.
A tense situation Aug. 31 at the Red Roof Inn led police to open fire on a St. Paul man running out of a room where another man allegedly held several hostages at gunpoint and sexually assaulted teenage girls during the episode.
When it was all over, the St. Paul man, Mark E. Henderson, was dead and a suspect, 24-year-old Demetrius Ballinger was arrested and charged with 27 felonies, including second-degree attempted murder and four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. It was later concluded that Henderson had been a hostage and was shot by police while trying to escape after gunfire rang out from inside the second-story room.
Ballinger continues to sit in Washington County jail, awaiting his next court hearing in 2013. Meanwhile, a case involving three officers identified in the shooting – Woodbury officers Anthony Ofstead, Stacey Krech and Natalie Martin – is headed to a Ramsey County grand jury, which will hear evidence and consider whether to charge them in relation to the shooting death.
That hearing, which is closed to the public, is expected to be held sometime in January.
The officers involved in the shooting have been back out on the streets, said Public Safety Director Lee Vague. He said department policy isn’t “hard and fast” when it comes to returning officers to active duty after they have been involved in deadly force situations.
Rather, he said the decision is made on a case-by-case basis and is guided by a preliminary review by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and by gauging the officers’ emotional status.
“There’s really no one-size-fits-all in an incident like this,” Vague said.
The incident led to a vocal outcry from residents seeking to have the embattled motel shut down. The effort was marshaled by a Woodbury woman who established an online petition that generated hundreds of signatures seeking to shutter the Red Roof.
City officials made it clear the city of Woodbury didn’t have the authority to unilaterally shut down a business that was in compliance with zoning and was current on taxes. Instead, top city officials met with Red Roof representatives and discussed strategies to ensure safety.
Changes at the motel included an end to its cash-only policy, and brought aboard private security enforcement during weekends.
“They’ve really done everything that we’ve asked them to do,” Vague said. “I think we’re in a much better place today than we were before the incident.”
He added that the Red Roof shooting provided an opportunity to examine safety and security issues at lodging establishments around Woodbury.
While the Red Roof incident created a high profile in 2012, it wasn’t the only Woodbury incident that entered the legal system that drew attention.
In May, the developer and builder of CityWalk were sued by association members, who claimed construction at the English Manor townhomes was done poorly. The lawsuit came on the heels of a similar suit, where association members reached a settlement over construction issues at CityWalk’s Mews condominiums.
A third lawsuit against CityWalk developers went to trial later in the year involving the Flats. A jury found in favor of the association again in that case, which Woodbury attorney Paul Peterson called “a successful verdict for the homeowners.”