This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).







In Re: Bruce James Coleman,


Filed June 27, 2000


Toussaint, Chief Judge



Isanti County District Court

 File No. P3991246



Jeffrey E. Larson, Jeffrey E. Larson, Ltd., 2215 South Main, Cambridge, MN 55008  (for appellant)


Jeffrey Ray Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, Thad Tudor, Assistant County Attorney, Isanti County Government Center, 555 18th Avenue S.W., Cambridge, MN 55008  (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

While police officers were executing an arrest warrant at appellant Bruce James Coleman’s home, appellant picked up a loaded gun and fired it in the direction of one of the police officers.  The police officer’s return fire struck appellant, requiring him to need medical treatment.  Because appellant refused medical treatment for his gunshot wound, the Hennepin County Medical Center obtained an emergency guardianship, and appellant received surgery for a ruptured colon.  He was later diagnosed as having a psychotic disorder.

            The county filed a petition to commit appellant as mentally ill and dangerous. At the commitment hearing, two psychologists testified that they diagnosed appellant as paranoid schizophrenic and both recommended that appellant be committed as mentally ill and dangerous.  The district court determined that appellant was mentally ill and dangerous and committed him to St. Peter Security Hospital.

            Appellant argues that his commitment is not supported by clear and convincing evidence.  Because there is clear and convincing evidence supporting appellant’s commitment, we affirm.          


            An appellate court will not disturb the district court’s factual findings unless clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the district court’s opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses.  In re Knops, 536 N.W.2d 616, 620 (Minn. 1995) (citing Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01).  An appellate court reviews issues of law de novo.  Id.

            Involuntary commitment as mentally ill and dangerous is justified when a person is mentally ill and poses a clear danger to others’ safety as a result of that mental illness.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (1998).  A clear danger is present when the person: (1) commits an overt act that causes or attempts to cause serious physical harm; and (2) there is a substantial likelihood the person will engage in such acts in the future.  Id.  The statutory criteria for commitment as mentally ill and dangerous must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.  Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 1 (1998). 

            The district court first found that appellant committed an overt act of aggressive behavior when he picked up a loaded gun and shot at a deputy.  “Whether evidence is sufficient to prove an overt act is a legal question.”  Knops, 536 N.W.2d at 620.

            The parties do not dispute that appellant suffers from a mental illness.  But appellant contends there was insufficient evidence that he committed an overt act that caused or attempted to cause serious physical harm to another.  He denies pointing the gun at the deputy or shooting at him, claiming he held the gun pointed upward into the air.  Further, appellant asserts no attempt can be shown, because there is no evidence he intended to inflict serious physical harm and he made no verbal threats.

The district court credited the testimony of the deputy, who stated that appellant aimed the shotgun directly at him and fired.  The district court disbelieved appellant.  It is within the scope of duties of the district court to resolve any conflicting evidence.  In re Clemons, 494 N.W.2d 519, 520 (Minn. App. 1993).  Judging witness credibility and the weight given witness testimony is within the province of the factfinder.  General v. General, 409 N.W.2d 511, 513 (Minn. App. 1987).

Whether or not appellant intended to harm the deputy is irrelevant to a determination of whether he committed an overt act.  See In re Jasmer, 447 N.W.2d 192, 195 (Minn. 1989) (concluding intent does not matter in finding overt act where a mentally ill person deliberately aimed and fired a shotgun at another person).  An action is equally dangerous to the public whether or not the actor intends to cause harm.  Id. 

The district court properly concluded that appellant engaged in an overt act capable of causing serious physical harm within the statutory meaning as a matter of law.  See In re Kottke, 433 N.W.2d 881, 884 (Minn. 1988) (adopting common understanding of “serious”).

The district court also concluded it was highly likely that appellant would engage in future acts that would inflict harm on others because appellant: (1) suffers from paranoid schizophrenia; (2) has no insight into his problems; (3) has a lack of ability to stay drug-compliant; (4) has a well-documented history of behavior consistent with his mental illness; and (5) has threatened or assaulted family members in the past.

            The likelihood of future violence is a factual determination for the district court, that will be reversed only when clearly erroneous.  In re Lufsky, 379 N.W.2d 255, 257 (Minn. App. 1986). Under the circumstances it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to conclude there was a high likelihood that appellant would engage in future acts that could inflict serious physical harm on another.  The evidence demonstrates that appellant refuses medications and denies having any problems with mental illness despite ample evidence to the contrary, findings that support a conclusion that future aggressive behavior is likely.  See In re Dirks, 530 N.W.2d 207, 211 (Minn. App. 1995) (continuing commitment where patient has only marginal insight and experts predict he would stop medications upon release); Clemons, 494 N.W.2d 519, 521 (finding dangerousness where patient lacks insight and compliance with medications doubtful).  The serious nature of the incident with a loaded shotgun, appellant’s lack of insight, and his resistance to medications provides sufficient evidence to support the court’s conclusion as to the likelihood of future danger.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.