Dec. 18 , 2006

Watertown man fatally shot in Rockford Wednesday

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

A man with local ties was shot to death in a Rockford home after allegedly breaking into the home early Wednesday morning.

Erik Allen Richter, 35, of Watertown, was fatally shot after he allegedly forced his way into the back door of his ex-girlfriend’s residence.

Richter’s ex-girlfriend, Samantha Erin Simons, 21, was inside the residence on Walnut Place with her boyfriend, Eric Michael Cegon, 30, of Rockford.

“Richter was killed in the doorway while trying to enter the bedroom,” said Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly at a press conference Thursday.

As of late last week, Cegon remained free of charges, pending the investigation of the shooting. Kelly said this case may be one where no charges are filed at all.

“We’re trying to determine if Mr. Cegon’s use of deadly force was justified,” Kelly said, which means finding out if Richter could have caused bodily harm or death, and if Cegon and Simons feared for their lives.

Kelly added that Minnesota law states a person does not have to retreat from their home, and that reasonable force can be executed to prevent great bodily harm or death.

Minnesota state statute 609.065, the justifiable taking of a life, states: “The intentional taking of a life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, of preventing the commission of a felony in the actor’s place of abode.”

“Simons nor Cegon had no duty to retreat from their home,” Kelly said, noting that the law is different for public streets and places.

He said his office is trying to determine if Cegon’s taking of Richter’s life was reasonable and justifiable. Kelly expects the investigation to last at least two to three weeks, until the coroner’s report is back.

He said he would not comment further on the possibility of charges from the incident, and said it’s “more prudent to let the investigation play its way out.”

Kelly could not recall another case in Wright County regarding the justifiable taking of a life.

A ‘classic domestic situation gone bad’

Richter and Simons have a 2-year-old son together. Authorities believed Richter hoped to get back together with Simons.

In April of last year, Richter was charged with fifth degree domestic assault following an incident with Simons, but that charge was dismissed when Simons failed to show for a trial, Kelly said.

Richter was facing charges of terroristic threats and first degree criminal damage to property from an incident that took place Nov. 4 at Cegon’s residence in Rockford, according to a formal complaint distributed at the press conference.

At that time, it is believed Richter broke windows of Cegon’s vehicle, according to the complaint. Simons stated that Richter came to the house and started to bang on the door and window, then attempted to enter the home by trying to remove the screen from a window.

Simons called 911, and then heard popping noises that sounded like gunshots near Cegon’s vehicle. She also said that earlier that same evening, Richter sent a text message to her cell phone threatening to kill Cegon, according to the complaint. When speaking with authorities, Cegon also said he received a text message from Richter threatening his life.

Richter was questioned about the incident, and told authorities that he would pay for the damages, and that he wanted to talk with Cegon, according to the formal complaint.

Authorities also located two claw-hammers and a metal hole punch in Richter’s vehicle. Following that incident, charges were filed against Richter.

Another incident took place between Richter and Simons Dec. 6, in which Richter went to Simons’ home in Rockford, according to Kelly.

The incident involved a knife, and Richter allegedly threatening to kill Cegon. At that time, Richter left the home before authorities arrived, and was not taken into custody.

Officials did issue a “pick up and hold” order for Richter, which means he could be arrested on probable cause of assault, along with breaking conditions of his release from the incident in November, which stated he was not to have contact with either Simons or Cegon. That matter was under investigation by the sheriff’s department.

“Seven days later . . . he (Richter) was shot,” Kelly said. Two shots were fired from a shotgun. He said Richter also had a fully-loaded gun on him, and Kelly said he did not believe Richter’s gun was fired.

In the past, authorities have also dealt with Richter on other unrelated driving and traffic issues. He was sentenced to four years in prison for methamphetamine and drug-related charges in 1998, Kelly said. He added that he did not believe narcotics were found at the residence the night the shooting took place.

Authorities did locate a vehicle registered to Richter not far from Simons’ residence. Kelly said Thursday that four search warrants were being executed on persons involved in the situation as part of the investigation, which remains ongoing.

“This is your classic domestic situation gone bad,” Kelly said. “Obviously, this is a very tragic situation, and we extend our sympathies to the Richter family.”

Two sides to every story

An acquaintance of Richter’s, Kellie Lane of Rockford, feels that there are “two sides to every story,” and that a lot of negative has been reported about Richter.

“He was always good to me,” she said. “I’ve always liked him.”

Lane said Richter took pride in his three children, and had worked for several years trimming trees for Mike Monahan of Delano. She said Richter lived between Watertown and Delano off Wright County Road 17 at a residence by himself.

Richter also attended school at Delano High School, according to an old yearbook.

Lane said she last saw Richter Dec. 9, and said he seemed fine at that time.

“It’s so sad,” she said about the situation.

As of press time, funeral arrangements for Richter were not known.

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