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Ashland police: Teen homicide suspect also shot at officers

Duluth News Tribune

ASHLAND – A 14-year-old boy turned on the couple who were raising him, fatally shooting and stabbing a male relative and also attacking a female relative, who was able to escape and call police for help, officials said Friday.

The Ashland teen later traded gunshots with police and shot himself. Police here are recommending that the youth be charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the slaying of 52-year-old William J. Saari, who was found dead near his home at 1806 Cary St. on Monday night, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Saari’s wife, Carolyn Saari.

Ashland Police Chief Greg BeBeau called Saari’s killing a “tragic event in our community” during a news conference on the steps of Ashland City Hall. He said Saari, a 1979 graduate of Superior Senior High School, was apparently killed from a combination of several gunshot and stab wounds.

“It was a very gruesome, disturbing crime scene — things that we don’t like to encounter on this job,” BeBeau said.

Police also said there was a brief exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the first officer on the scene.

The officers involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard with police-involved shootings. BeBeau did not reveal the name of the officer who fired the shots, but said he was a 20-year, decorated member of the force.

The boy, who had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was treated and released. He is being held in a juvenile detention facility on $250,000 bond.

Charging decisions will ultimately be up to Ashland County District Attorney Kelly McKnight. Police said they had not yet forwarded their reports to McKnight’s office Friday afternoon, so a charging decision probably won’t come for about a week.

Police said the boy was a relative that the Saaris had been raising, but have declined to release his name or exact relationship.

According to police:

Carolyn Saari placed a 911 call about 9 p.m. Monday to report shots fired and a stabbing. As officers were en route, they received further information that the shots were still ongoing.

Officers found Carolyn Saari frantically walking down the street and she told them that her husband was being stabbed inside the house.

Police saw William Saari stagger out of the house and a shot was heard from behind him. Saari then fell over from his injuries.

The officer fired his gun at the suspect, who could be seen through a screen door. The boy fired back, and the officer discharged a second round.

The boy retreated into the house and police began setting up a perimeter around the structure when they heard an additional shot from inside the home. The boy exited the rear of the house onto a deck, where he complied with officers’ commands and was taken into custody.

The officers noted the boy had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was taken to a local hospital and later transported to Duluth for additional care.

BeBeau said they have spoken to the suspect, but the motive remains unclear. He said they could not reveal information about the questioning until formal charges are filed.

“It does not appear there was any arguing taking place,” he said. “It was a normal, quiet night.”

There were indications that the boy also attempted to harm Carolyn Saari, but she was able to escape uninjured.

BeBeau said an autopsy has been performed on William Saari, but he is still waiting for final results.

“Preliminary results are cause of death is due to several gunshot wounds and several stab wounds, but we don’t have any final report yet,” he said.

A funeral for William Saari was scheduled for Saturday in Ashland County.