BISMARCK, N.D. – An investigation has found that a North Dakota police officer was justified in shooting a man who attacked him outside a motel, authorities said Wednesday.
The announcement about the case comes after Burleigh County State's Attorney Richard Riha sent a letter last week to Bismarck police Chief Dan Donlin saying Bismarck officer Justin Antonovich "acted appropriately under the circumstances" when he shot and wounded 51-year-old Donald Miller.
Police said Miller punched Antonovich and gouged his eyes before Antonovich shot him on Oct. 15. Antonovich was responding to an incident call that did not involve Miller. Initially, police would not release Antonovich's name as a matter of routine and also because the officer invoked a new law that expands the rights of crime victims.
Chief Donlin said police are now following guidance from the state attorney general's office that the so-called Marsy's Law does not protect the name of the officer or those of victims unless they are children or victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses or human trafficking.
"I needed to make sure it wasn't a violation (of Marsy's Law)," Donlin said, referring to the decision not to release the officer's name right away.
In the past, an officer's name typically was released once the state completed an investigation of a shooting involving an officer, Donlin said.
North Dakota voters overwhelmingly approved the law as a constitutional amendment last year, joining several other states that have adopted similar laws. The law guarantees crime victims and their families the right to participate in judicial proceedings and expands their privacy rights, among other provisions.
Its passage was opposed by most people charged with enforcing it, including police, prosecutors and victims' advocates. They called it a bad idea that will have unintended consequences.
Donlin said Antonovich returned to full duty Wednesday, after being on restricted duty following the shooting.
Miller was charged with assaulting a peace officer and robbery. He's being held on $150,000 bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 22. The office of his court-appointed attorney, Thomas Glass, was closed this week and the lawyer did not return phone calls seeking comment.