BEND,OR -- Deschutes County's District Attorney will not file charges against the Oregon State Police Trooper who shot and killed a man at the High Desert Museum. Trooper Richard Brannin shot 36-year-old Nicolas Berger on May 31, after Berger grabbed a museum employee in the gift shop, held her at knife point and threatened to kill her.
At a press conference on Wednesday, D.A. Hummel said Trooper Brannin was the first on scene and rushed in. "Brannin says when Berger continued to advance toward him, despite being hit twice by taser rounds, he feared Berger was going to stab him. Brannin said that even if Berger did not have a knife, he feared that Berger could have killed him because of his massive size. Based on all the available evidence, Brannin's belief that Berger was about to use deadly physical force against him is objectively reasonable. Because of this, Brannin's decision to use deadly physical force against Berger is authorized by Oregon law."
Hummel says at the time of his death, Berger had six different drugs in his system. "The autopsy revealed that at the time of this incident, Berger had in his system methamphetamine, amphetamine, hydrocodone, codeine, Zoloft and Paxil. I concluded Berger was suffering from a mental health disorder that caused delusions. He was also struggling with addictions to multiple drugs like meth and pain medications. At the same time, he was experiencing - at a minimum - situational depression caused by the break-up of his marriage and his bleak housing, employment and financial situations. The confluence of those realities caused Berger to decide to end his life. And, for unknown reasons, he chose suicide by cop as his method."
Hummel says Trooper Brannin's actions were brave not criminal. "Senior Trooper Brannin's decision to enter that museum alone, with spotty radio coverage, to protect the life of the museum employee and everyone else in that museum, was heroic. His decision to initially forego shooting Berger, when he would've been legally justified in immediately shooting, showed he has the empathy and respect for human life that all law enforcement officers should aspire to."
Hummel says the museum employee who was held at knife point continues to struggle with her recovery, not as much as physical as emotional.