Christopher Besser used a 30/30 rifle to gun down his father and brother Saturday night in a pair of murders that have shaken three communities.
Besser, 21, shot his father, Todd, an off-duty Elk River Police officer, in the back of the head, and his brother directly in the chest, killing them both, according to a criminal complaint filed in Wright County District Court.Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly, joined by Assistant County Attorney Brian Lutes, and Lt. Sean Deringer and Capt. Todd Hoffman of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, held a press conference Tuesday for Twin Cities media, shortly before Christopher Besser made his first court appearance on second-degree murder charges (the highest the county can levy) at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 12 in connect to the May 10 tragedy.
Second degree murder charges carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, under a Minnesota state law.
“First, we would like to extend our sympathy to the Besser family, loved ones, friends, the Elk River Police Department and all those who are mourning today. How tragic. How sad,” Kelly said.
Christopher Besser and his brother, Blake, 29, had a “strained” relationship, Kelly said in his statement to media. Deringer and Hoffman confirmed police had been called to the house in the 4500 block of Mayfield Avenue Northeast a “couple of times” before the shootings Saturday, once for a suicide attempt. Authorities would not comment on which of the three brothers (the third Besser brother, Derek, is overseas serving in the military and not involved in this incident) was threatening to take his own life.
Chris Besser and his father, Todd, argued Saturday night prior to the killings, according to Kelly’s statement and the criminal complaint filed in court. Kelly said shortly after the argument – which happened between Besser’s arrival at 6:30 p.m. and the 911 call by Blake at 7:06 p.m., Chris went to the gun cabinet and pulled out a rifle commonly used in deer hunting. Christopher loaded three rounds into the rifle.
Chris went downstairs and found his father working on his computer. He fired one round, and killed his father “instantly.”
“His firearm was in its holster,” Deringer told media.
Christopher then went back upstairs, Kelly said, and sat at the kitchen table with the “rifle between his legs.” He knew his brother, Blake, was still at the home. Blake entered the home from a garage door into the kitchen area, and Christopher shot him in the lower chest/upper abdomen.
Blake was able to place a 911 call after he was shot, the complaint states. As he spoke, he dropped the phone, moaned, and fell to the ground. He was found by deputies at the scene, deceased.
Christopher, who did have alcohol in his system at the time, drove his car from the home and eventually wound up at the Kwik Stop in Monticello, where he asked to use a phone. “I ended up killing my father and brother,” he told the dispatcher. “I just lost it.”
During the conversation with the 911 dispatcher at the Wright County Communications Center, Christopher Besser told her that he and his father “just didn’t get along,” and that his father expected things from him, the complaint said. He told the dispatcher he had left the murder weapon at the house in St. Michael.
He was arrested at around 8 p.m. without incident, less than an hour after the shootings, the complaint states.
During transport to the Wright County Jail, Christopher asked if his brother, Blake, survived the shooting. “I’m guessing not” he said, according to the complaint. “I sympathize with the fact that I did that.”
At around 10 p.m. Saturday, May 9, Christopher waived his Miranda right and made a statement to investigators, admitting to the two shootings.
Murder charges could be raised to First Degree
Kelly said he would “anticipate in the near future the calling of a Grand Jury, and asking that they consider premeditated, first-degree murder charges.” He pointed to two instances where Christopher Besser stopped and considered his actions – first before removing the gun from a gun cabinet and placing three rounds in the chamber, then while sitting at the kitchen table before Blake entered the home – as solid grounds for asking the state to consider the higher charge.
“I think we have a sufficient basis to ask for that, and I think it would behoove us to do so,” Kelly said. “I can’t think of a more tragic, sad situation that has brought us here. Imagine the phone call [Todd’s wife received] – your husband has been killed, your oldest son has been killed, and your youngest son is in jail for killing both of them. How do you even wrap your brain around that?”
Memorial services for Officer Todd Besser and Blake Besser are set for Sunday, May 17 at Elk River High School.