Law Clerk Murdered in Tragic Case of Mistaken Identity

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Tragedy struck the city of St. Paul, Minnesota last week. Chase Passauer worked as a law clerk at the small criminal defense firm, North Star Criminal Defense, until he was shot dead last Thursday when a disgruntled client mistook him for his lawyer. The young clerk was considering eventually becoming a lawyer.

This is a reminder to all attorneys that they must practice vigilance, particularly when practicing law in emotionally-charged legal areas like criminal and family law.

Displeased Criminal Client

According to the criminal complaint, the defendant Ryan Petersen hired one of North Star's criminal defense attorneys, Dan Adkins. Apparently, Peterson was "displeased with the way his case was being handled" and expressed his views to this lawyer via phone and text messages before the shooting.

On the day of the murder, Petersen fired Adkins via text message and demanded a refund of his money. But because Adkins was in court he could not return Petersen's messages. Petersen apparently believed his lawyer was ignoring him and became enraged.

"I Just Shot My Lawyer"

That same day, Petersen arrived at the law firm where Passauer worked and apparently found only the young clerk there. It is not clear whether or not Adkins or Petersen had ever met before and local law enforcement believe that Petersen killed Adkins by mistake. This is buttressed by the ominous text message Petersen wrote back to a friend who asked to rendezvous at a bar: "No, I just shot my lawyer."

Chase Passauer was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m.

Chase's GoFundMe Account

A GoFundMe account has been set up to accept donations from those who would like to help Chase's family pay for his funeral expenses. So far, several people within the legal community have contributed. If you would like to help the Passauer family, you can contribute here.

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