Officer cleared in Dec. 10 fatal shooting at Scotts

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – The Iowa Attorney General’s office has determined that a Fort Madison Police officer-involved shooting on Dec. 10 was justified.

Fort Madison Police Officer Cory Brown was placed on administrative leave as the matter was investigated by the Iowa Attorney General’s office at the request of Lee County Attorney Ross Braden.

Brown fired upon and killed 42-year-old Robert Elfgen of West Point as Elfgen ran through Scotts Miracle-Gro armed with a handgun.

Elfgen was also identified as the man who shot Brett Swyter of Fort Madison, in the neck at a home in the 3100 block of Avenue O, about 40 minutes prior to the incident at the Scotts facility.

According to a letter forwarded by Lee County Attorney Ross Braden on Friday, from Scott D. Brown, Special Assistant Attorney General, “the actions of Officer Cory Brown were entirely legally justified.”

“The actions of Officer Cory Brown were entirely legally justified. The decision to fire at Elfgen was reasonable under the circumstances. Prior to discharging his weapon, Brown, other officers and bystanders were faced with a deadly threat solely created by Elfgen,” Brown wrote in the opinion.

Scott Brown said Officer Brown provided Elfgen every opportunity to end the confrontation peacefully.

“Instead Elfgen continued the threat by attempting to flee while remaining armed.”

The investigation revealed the intense moments at Scotts after the initial shooting on Avenue O. Special Agent Brown wrote the following summary in the opinion released on Friday.

“Later on December 20, 2019, at approximate 10:56 p.m. Lee County dispatch received an urgent 911 call from Scott’s Miracle-Gro in Fort Madison concerning Elfgen chasing Atwater at the plant while armed with a gun. Atwater is employed by Scotts.
Officers with the Fort Madison Police department, including Brown, the Lee County Sherriff s Office, the Iowa State Patrol and the Iowa Department of Corrections responded to Scotts. Law enforcement entered the facility and attempted to locate Elfgen. Officer Brown and another officer entered in a two-man team and searched the north portion of the warehouse where Officer Brown encountered Elfgen, who was holding a firearm in his right hand. At the time of this encounter numerous employees were in close proximity to Elfgen. Officer Brown ordered Elfgen to show him his hands on two occasions. Elfgen failed to comply and turned to flee. At the moment Elfgen moved Officer Brown fired his duty rifle at Elfgen striking him two times. Elfgen was incapacitated by the bullets that struck him and he was secured. Elfgen was immediately provided medical care and was transported to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead.”

The attorney general’s office investigation focused solely on Brown’s conduct and whether the shooting was justified. However, the conclusion illuminated the story leading up to the Dec. 10 incidents.

Lee County Sheriff’s Department had been posting on Facebook they were looking for Elfgen and considered him armed and dangerous.

A former girlfriend had alerted law enforcement of threats Elfgen had made against her and was considering suicide. According to information used in the investigation, law enforcement were also made aware of threats by Elfgen to die in a shootout with police made in late November.

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