Updated: Woman Golden Valley Officer Shot, Killed on I-394 Now Identified

The 58-year-old Altadena, CA, woman died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The woman a Golden Valley police officer shot and killed on I-394 on Thursday has been identified.

Katherine Marie Gordon, 58, of Altadena, CA, died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to a spokeswoman from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office. The manner of death is listed as homicide.

The officer tried to stop a woman in a vehicle on I-394 near Highway 169, according to a statement from Stacy Carlson, Golden Valley police chief. The driver pulled the car to the side of 394 near the Hopkins Crossroad.

"The lone occupant of the vehicle, an adult female, was in possession of a handgun and was subsequently fatally shot by the officer," Carlson's statement said. "The officer did not sustain any injuries."

In a statement Saturday morning, Carlson declined to provide more information about the shooting, including whether or not Gordon pointed the gun at the officer.

The Star Tribune is reporting, through an unnamed source within the Golden Valley Police Department, that Gordon had a history of mental illness and pointed her gun at the officer. However, that report contradicts what her friend, Charmaine Wahlstrom Schodde, said she knew of Gordon.

"Katherine was a beautiful woman inside and out. She was meticulous and cautious," Schodde wrote in an email to Dan Abendschein of Altadena Patch in California. "A good and loving person who had a gentle and loving spirit."

that Gordon lived in Altadena but was a frequent visitor to Minnesota. Gordon stayed with family and friends for long periods of time, including at Schodde's house last year.

In the email to Abendschein, Schodde said she found Gordon's death "absolutely shocking," adding there's "absolutely no way that Katherine would have intended to shoot an officer."

When officers are dealing with a person with a weapon, they are trained to "stop the threat, which means aiming for the center mass of a suspect’s body," Police Chief Carlson said.

"After an officer-involved shooting, it is common for the public to ask why the officer didn’t just shoot the gun out of someone’s hand or hit them in the kneecap—like they do on TV," Carlson said. "The answer is that TV is not reality, and many officers have been killed by someone who was able to continue firing a gun even after being partially wounded."

The police department hasn't identified the officer, who is on paid administrative leave. A Minneapolis Star Tribune article, however, identifies him as Rob Zarrett. That article says Zarrett was the subject of a lawsuit stemming from a 2005 incident in which he fired a stun gun at a woman as she sat in the passenger seat of a vehicle. The woman later sued the Golden Valley Police Department and the case was settled for $250,000.

Golden Valley Patch hasn't confirmed the information in the Star Tribune article.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is in charge of the investigation.

The last time a shot someone was in 1994, Carlson said, and it's been 31 years since a Golden Valley officer fatally shot someone.

Carlson also said, "The instance of needing to draw a gun in response to a suspect who has a gun is rare."

The police chief said officers "frequently" patrol the freeway or respond to incidents there.

Patch local editors James Warden, Michael Rose, Becky Glander and Dan Abendschein contributed to this report.

Margaret Owen Thorpe September 24, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Thanks to the links in your article, the story is beginning to emerge. Still, I've not seen anyone suggest what may be truly the most important thing. The Star-Tribune, quotes a former police officer: "Generally, people in Minnesota are taught that as a driver, you're to stay in the car...." This woman was from California. So am I. I learned to drive in the Los Angeles area. I'm guessing that what she knew about freeway driving was just as different from what Minnesotans know as what I was taught. In the LA area, the freeways are 6, 8, even 10 lanes wide. One does not necessarily go to the right shoulder to stop. One goes to the nearest safe place which, if you're in the far left lane, could well be against the median. Second, one does not stop immediately when signalled by law enforcement. Stopping quickly in LA traffic gets people killed. LA law enforcement knows that a driver will head for a reasonably safe place before stopping. BTW, LA drivers also know not to stop dead at the merging end of an on-ramp nor to do 45 mph in the fast lane. Finally, if I were still living in LA and driving a Honda Civic, I would consider it prudent as a lone, over-50 female driver, to carry a legal gun in my car - and to have my hand on it when stopped. The apparent cop may not be a cop at all. There are places on LA freeways where one does not stop for even Godzilla. I think we have here a tragic case of cultural misunderstanding - rather like the Henry Louis Gates incident.
Kyle Weaver September 24, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Great job Patch-ers. Good coverage.
Tim September 24, 2011 at 07:08 PM
I too found it odd that a 58 year old woman, with 3 adult children, driving a late model Honda was shot numerous times (the GV police have yet to state how many times...exactly, and why, exactly, she was being persued by the officer, Rob Zarrett..., an officer that cost GV $250,000 in 2005 for threatening a woman with HIS gun in 2005) , ....but it's seems apparent that the unstable person here just may be the officer. What a surprise that the GV Police leak that this woman may have had mental issues prior. I'm still curious as to why they, the GV Police Dept ., kept on their staff an unstable police officer, Rob Zarrett, after he cost the tax payers of GV a quarter of a million dollars for his obvious lack of judgement in the 2005 case. It's also obvious that police will do everything in their power to protect their own. Meanwhile a mother is dead and a family grieves.
Heather September 24, 2011 at 10:44 PM
There are multiple exits in that area where she could have pulled over to a "safe place" and not continued a pursuit for 30 minutes. I doubt that this is a case of cultural misunderstanding. It really is sad that this has happened and I feel for her family.
Margaret Owen Thorpe September 24, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Heather, You don't live around here, do you? The article states that the officer first tried to stop the car near Highway 169 and that the driver stopped near Hopkins Crossroads. There are NO exits on 394 between 169 and Hopkins Crossroads. It is a distance of less than 3 miles. She did not keeping driving for 30 minutes. She appears to have stopped as soon as she realized she was being pursued and found a safe spot.
Tonka Tom September 25, 2011 at 01:45 AM
So, a woman driving dangerously and erratically on a busy freeway gets pulled over, jumps out of her car and points a gun at a police officer and you call his character into question? Are you people clueless about what public safety means? I suppose you think she should've been allowed to fire her weapon before he did anything. Geez.
Billie Gosling September 25, 2011 at 03:36 AM
I wish the GV Police Department would be more forthcoming rather than letting an unnamed source do the talking for them. Newspapers should know better than to allow an anonymous source to be the only source for an allegation like "a history of mental illness." That being said, I wonder if there's a chance this was suicide by cop? It sounds like she never fired a shot, and never intended to harm the officer, but brought her gun out of the car with her and brandished it. So sad.
Karla Rose September 25, 2011 at 05:08 AM
Facts are still emerging on this story so perhaps we should refrain from blame on either part until all the fact are gathered. Both the officer and the woman are people with families and friends in our area. Personal attacks and speculation do nothing but harm at this point.
Jim hild September 25, 2011 at 12:20 PM
from a disabled police officer, as a result of hand to hand combat for my life with a illegal alien , who tried to take my gun and shoot me , I find some of these views quite interesting minnesota is not la, If she hand a permit to carry in la it most likely would not be valid in minnesota but still a tragedy for both families The gv police are getting legal advice from the city attorneys office and most likely following those directives Odds are the officer will retire within a few years of the incident do some research.... I agree with karla
Steve Millman September 25, 2011 at 12:35 PM
I would like to understand why the woman was stopped, whether the gun was a legal gun and whether the driver threatened the officer with the gun or merely possessed it. Was this caught on police camera? Was there just cause for an officer shooting this woman to death?
Meganjune Fleming September 25, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Even if you can legally carry you keep that piece out of sight. There is no reason to "keep your hand on it" a person posing as an officer wouldn't have a cruiser that's fully marked. Also, if I were a cop and I saw gun. I would shoot. People have to realize how serious guns are. If you have one it's purpouse is to kill regardless of what the wielders intentions are, the perception from the barrel's end is "I'm dead"
Julie M September 25, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Margaret, I know they teach you in CA , as I have had a license there, to keep your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them as they approach the vehicle once you have been pulled over. To have your hand on a gun, legal or not, loaded or not, in the car as a officer approaches, that is a quick way to either be gravely hurt, or be treated as a criminal until they can determine the gun is legal. I don't care where you are, you don't drive with your hand on a gun and tempt fate with law enforcement unless you are looking for a payment from a lawsuit. The other problem, she was in the median, supposedly with a gun. I don't quite see how that is a cultural misunderstanding. If she had gotten shots off, what do you suppose the chances are a stray bullet would hit a passing vehicle? I am thinking pretty good. We are lucky that there were not more injuries because of a woman getting out of her car at a traffic stop with a gun in hand. Not only did the womans family lose a loved one, but a officer had to act and ended up taking a life as a result.
alan kvasnik September 26, 2011 at 07:07 AM
Why shut down the freeway for six hours?
Kevin September 26, 2011 at 09:09 PM
Doesn't sound like this is Officer Zarretts first time being overly aggressive towards women.... http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/09/07/081640P.pdf He tasered a women for no reason in 2008.... he settled the suit for $200K in 2009. http://www.startribune.com/local/west/60107767.html?page=all&prepage=1&c=y#continue
David K September 27, 2011 at 04:45 AM
We will NEVER know the truth! Hopefully this will be a great example of why NOT to carry a gun! Odd are 200,000 – 1 you would ever get carjacked (or shot by a police officer). If a car jacker came up to your car and saw you reach for your gun……..guess who shoots first. I don’t carry as it only leads to trouble. This is a case in which an officer saw a gun (maybe even sitting on the passenger seat) and he freaked out! Believe me, the truth will NEVER surface to the public.


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