Assisted Suicide

Minneapolis officials insist police did everything by the book before Clay Fingerman killed himself. But nobody wants to talk about the shotgun left by his door.

Casey, the executive director of SAVE, came out of the June meeting cautiously optimistic: "There does seem to be an interest in fixing the problem, and I think the city is moving forward because of the Barbara Schneider incident. But I don't feel there's been enough acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation with Clay Fingerman and the impact it had on Jim and his neighbors. The city is just saying, 'We can't talk about it, because you're not immediate family.'"

Bill Boyd, who is acting as the executor of Fingerman's estate, says he has talked about the specifics of Fingerman's death with Inspector Morris. Initially he agreed with some of Erickson's complaints. But now Boyd says he is satisfied with the MPD's promise that it will review department procedures. And he's convinced they are acting in good faith. What's more, he has come to view Fingerman's suicide as inevitable: "I have a hard time holding the Minneapolis Police Department responsible for failing to save Clay's life. If the city had a squad of highly trained officers that could have talked Clay down that night, that would have been great. That night. But Clay had been on a self-destructive path for a long time, and the bottom line is that he was going to do what he did, and it was just unfortunate for Jim Erickson and the officers of the Fifth Precinct that he chose to involve them. The truth is, I think Jim [Erickson] should be grateful that neither he nor any of the neighbors were hurt. I don't think Clay had a malicious bone in his body. And I don't think he would have intentionally tried to hurt Jim. But he had a very powerful weapon in his hands, and he didn't have a clue what he was doing."

In the wake of the June meeting, Erickson received letters from both Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and Police Chief Robert Olson. They mayor wrote that it "appears from the records...that the police acted promptly and in good faith in attempting to resolve this crisis." Olson, more circumspect, said that the department was "reviewing some promising programs in other cities which may help us go a long way to help us further minimize the risk of future tragedies."

None of this has satisfied Erickson, who says he now hopes to interest a lawyer in his case. "You know, people sue because of their treatment after the fact," he says. And while he regrets much of his own conduct the night Clay Fingerman died, that guilt is minuscule compared to his continued outrage with the city. "I'm angry about this. And I want the public to know what happened here. I don't want Clay's death to be swept under the rug with no benefit."

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