By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Ryan McGill had no idea police were closing in on his neighbor’s house, responding to a report of an armed suicidal man, until the blast from a gun rattled his usually quiet neighborhood.
“I was on my roof talking on the phone,” the Minnesota State University student said. “I heard a gunshot, looked down and saw a guy fall down the steps. Then there were cops with flashlights everywhere and they were giving the guy CPR.”
The view from McGill’s roof looks right over the backyard of Alice Hess’ house next door at 618 Byron Street. Hess had called 911 just minutes earlier to report her son, 31-year-old Jonathan Hess, was extremely intoxicated and had a handgun. She told a dispatcher she had left the house because she was trying to stay away from him, according to a recording of police scanner traffic obtained by The Free Press.
As officers were arriving in the neighborhood, the situation escalated quickly. Alice Hess told the dispatcher her son was threatening to kill himself and might have walked out the back door. Officers were told to use the alley entrance to the property after Hess reported she’d found her son in the garage behind the house. He still had the gun, she said.
A short time later officer Timothy Spellacy fired his gun once. “He pointed the gun at me,” he said over his radio.
“Officer Spellacy encountered an armed man outside the residence when he arrived at the home,” Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokesman Doug Neville said in a news release. “After several verbal attempts to get the suspect to drop his weapon, the suspect pointed his weapon at officer Spellacy and officer Spellacy fired once, striking the suspect.”
Neville said he couldn't say whether Hess' gun was loaded because that is part of the BCA's ongoing investigation.
Spellacy, who has been with the Mankato Department of Public Safety for more than 10 years, has been placed on paid administrative leave. That is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting incident.
McGill said he didn’t hear any of the commotion between Alice and Jonathan Hess or between the police and Jonathan Hess.
After the shots were fired, the neighborhood filled quickly with squad cars, fire trucks and the ambulance. Houses are close together in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, so several neighbors reported hearing the shot. They were joined outside by other neighbors as police arrived, flood lights were set up and turned on around the shooting scene and the BCA was called in to investigate.
“I was just watching TV and heard a big bang,” said McGill’s roommate, Cody Haycraft. I didn’t think anything of it until about 20 cops showed up.
Emily Anderson, another roommate, said she was on her way home from her job in Mapleton when officers responding to the scene were passing her in town. She was surprised to find the officers, some armed with shotguns, outside her house when she arrived.
Jonathan Hess had been shot in the chest. He was eventually taken to an ambulance, which stayed at the scene for about 20 minutes before driving away slowly without its lights or sirens on, McGill said.