Delusions rooted in battlefield trauma and civil unrest after George Floyd’s death led a judge to find a 24-year-old former Marine not guilty by reason of mental illness for breaking into a Shakopee home and fatally shooting a man.
Brady D. Zipoy was acquitted of second-degree intentional murder Wednesday in Scott County District Court and ordered civilly committed to the St. Peter Security Hospital in connection with the killing of 65-year-old Timothy Guion in June.
Based on two psychiatric evaluations, Judge Paula Vraa ruled that Zipoy “did know the nature of his act at the time” when he shot Guion multiple times, but he “was laboring under such a defect of reason … that he did not understand that his act was wrong.”
Therefore, Vraa’s order read, the law requires that Zipoy “be excused from criminal liability by reason of mental illness.”
County Attorney Ron Hocevar said Thursday, “It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have somebody who murdered another individual in cold blood. There is no criminal punishment, but he will receive mental health care.”
Hocevar said both evaluations were done by highly respected psychologists, and Zipoy’s attorney presented “a valid mental illness defense. We do find it sincere.”
Zipoy, of Minneapolis, remains jailed ahead of his transfer to the state-operated hospital for treatment until a judge rules him no longer a threat to the community. Hocevar said it’s possible that Zipoy might never win release, but he called a lifetime of commitment “a remote possibility.”
The Prior Lake High School graduate admitted under police questioning that night to killing the man who was a stranger to him, but the court-ordered examinations revealed that Zipoy had been suffering from various psychotic episodes connected to politics, religion, Floyd’s death that spring and his military service.
Defense attorney Brockton Hunter said Thursday that Zipoy’s overseas military service played a large role in his client’s mental instability.
“He saw a significant amount of combat” while fighting ISIS militants in the northern city of Raqqa, Hunter said. “His commanding officer had nothing but praise for Brady.”
Zipoy left the service in 2019, and “when COVID hit [in March 2020] and he seemed to decline at a more decreasing rate” because he was unable to attend college and socialize as much, the attorney said.
Then came Floyd’s death and the sometimes violent unrest that brought a large response by the National Guard and local law enforcement.
“He was being impacted by the helicopters flying overhead constantly,” Hunter said. “His delusions started taking control, and he became more and more out of control.”
The judge’s order spells out Zipoy’s actions in the Shakopee neighborhood, which are based on law enforcement investigations and agreed to by the defense, and the conclusions reached by the forensic psychologists who examined him in the months following the killing.
Early in the evening on June 8, Zipoy was smoking marijuana in a friend’s basement in the 2400 block of Paha Circle before driving off. He soon returned to the block and parked in the drive of a neighbor’s home.
He went inside, shot Guion in the head, chest and elsewhere while several family members were either in the home or just outside. Zipoy contended that he felt threatened when Guion unsnapped a holster holding a gun. Guion’s weapon was on the floor next to his body.
A barefoot Zipoy then came outside firing the semiautomatic handgun in the air while running toward his friend’s home nearby. Zipoy dropped the weapon outside and was arrested.
The mission of the court-ordered psychological examinations was to determine whether Zipoy understood that what he did was wrong.
A defense doctor was first and found that Zipoy was suffering from schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and likely post-traumatic stress disorder possibly related to his years in the Marines. He told the doctor that his artillery unit spent three months in Syria and “was engaged in active combat,” one court filing read.
Zipoy also told the doctor that he quit taking his antidepressant and sleep aid medication because of unspecified side effects.
In the time leading up to the killing, Zipoy exhibited psychotic symptoms of delusions, hallucinations and “impaired thought processes,” the doctor wrote.
Specifically, he lost sleep because of anxiety over the unrest following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis two weeks earlier. Zipoy said he patrolled his south Minneapolis neighborhood feeling like he was back in Syria.
Zipoy’s preoccupations turned to politics and religion. He told of driving toward Washington, D.C., a day before the killing after seeing a photo of President Donald Trump holding a Bible in front of a church. He made it to Michigan only to turn back.
A state-arranged second exam concluded that Zipoy “was far removed from the reality of his circumstances” when he shot Guion.
As why Guion was targeted, the follow-up diagnosis found that Zipoy equated him to the serial killer Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski and his duty was “to free the world.”
County Attorney Hocevar said “the victim’s family is understandably not satisfied.”
Several family members were allowed to give victim impact statements during Wednesday’s hearing, a gesture from the judge that is usually reserved for sentencings. They spoke of him being a single father working two jobs while raising his children after their mother left.
“You try to explain it the best you can” to grieving loved ones, Hocevar said. “We don’t convict the mentally ill.”
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