Investigators were still trying Wednesday to piece together why a lawyer showed up at the home of a renowned Minnesota obstetrician and shot him dead last week as an associate of the doctor listened on the phone.
Dr. Stephen Larson, 74, a widely respected OB/GYN with honors from medical societies around the world, was gunned down in his home in Orono, Minn., on Friday night.
Police responding to a 911 call shot and killed Ted Christopher Hoffstrom, 30, in Larson's front yard.
Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek — whose agency is investigating the shootings at the request of the Orono Police Dept. — told reporters that "it's obvious what happened in this case, but the questions remain about why this happened."
Stanek said Hoffstrom, who lived with his parents, had a longstanding beef with Larson. After initially telling reporters Monday that Larson had treated Hoffstrom's mother "at one point in time," Stanek then said only that Larson had treated a "family member" whom he couldn't identify because of the investigation and medical privacy laws.
Initial speculation centered on the possibility that Hoffstrom blamed Larson — whose 40-year professional record shows only two minor reprimands, neither related to Hoffstrom or his mother — for birth defects that led to operations on his hands and feet.
However, state birth records indicate that Larson was not the primary doctor when Hoffstrom was born in 1983, the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis reported.
"We know who committed this murder, yet many unanswered questions remain," Stanek said.
Four Orono officers — including Police Chief Correy Farniok — were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard department policy in officer-involved shootings, Deputy Chief Chris Fischer said.
The Larson and Hoffman families said in statements that they wouldn't discuss the case. But Stanek and police records gave this account of the events Friday:
Larson was on the phone with another person, who hasn't been identified, shortly before 9 p.m. (10 p.m. ET) last Friday when he told his caller that there was a knock at the door. He set down the phone — with the line still open — as he went to answer the door.
The caller told investigators that he or she heard what sounded like an altercation and then some loud and "startling" noises.
Larson never came back to the phone, and the caller hung up and called 911.
When police arrived, they confronted Hoffstrom in the front yard, Stanek said.
"Mr. Hoffstrom was armed with a semiautomatic handgun, and after diligent attempts to negotiate with Mr. Hoffstrom, shots were fired. Mr. Hoffstrom died at the scene," Stanek said.
Officers found Larson inside dead of multiple gunshot wounds.
"This is an isolated incident," Stanek said. "This is a situation where there are no winners."
Patients and colleagues said they were reeling from the news of Larson's death.
"It's just devastating," Dr. Aimee Song, a colleague for a quarter-century, told NBC station KARE of Minneapolis. "He was an excellent practitioner and always courteous."
Nancy Tiffany, a patient and family friend, said she was "just shocked, just shocked how this could happen to such a wonderful man."
"He was soft-spoken and had the heart of a giant," Tiffany told KARE. "You could literally reach him day or night."