A former Marine who broke into a Minnesota home and fatally shot a 65-year-old man was acquitted of murder on Wednesday, with a judge ruling that due to his mental illness he “did not understand that his act was wrong.”
Brady Zipoy, 24, was found not guilty of second-degree intentional murder for the June 8 death of Timothy Guion after Scott County District Court ruled his two court-ordered mental examinations showed he had suffered several psychotic episodes. Those mental breaks, his defense team stated, were connected to religion, the unrest surrounding George Floyd’s death, and PTSD from his military service.
Zipoy fatally shot Guion several times inside his Shakopee home but “did not know the nature of his act at the time,” Judge Paul Vraa concluded, adding that he “was laboring under such a defect of reason ... that he did not understand that his act was wrong.”
The former Marine, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness earlier this month and waived his right to trial, will be transferred from Scott County Jail to St. Peter Regional Treatment Center.
“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,” County Attorney Ron Hocevar said in a Thursday statement to the StarTribune. He added, however, that both evaluations were performed by top-notch psychologists and Zipoy’s defense attorney presented “a valid mental illness defense” that they found “sincere.”
The June 8 tragedy unfolded after Zipoy smoked weed at a friend’s house on Paha Circle—where he was “making bizarre statements.” Shortly after 7 p.m. local time, Zipoy abruptly left, only to return to the block and park in a neighbor’s driveway, according to a criminal complaint.
Authorities say that Zipoy went into the home and shot Guion, who had asked him if he needed help, in the head and chest. Several of Guion’s family members were either in the home or just outside at the time of the shooting.
“Someone shot grandpa,” Guion’s granddaughter shouted to her husband, who was outside with their 2-year-old daughter, as Zipoy fled the scene. While Guion’s granddaughter hid inside a bathroom with her toddler, her husband picked up a pistol and hid behind a pole “because he did not want to get shot if the suspect was still in the residence.”
The complaint states that when Shakopee Police arrived at the home they “observed a male wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, and no shoes run out of the driveway of a neighboring” home. Zipoy, who was firing his weapon in the air as he ran toward his friend’s house, dropped the weapon outside and was safely apprehended. He later confessed to police that he fatally shot Guion, saying he felt threatened when the man unsnapped a gun holder.
Inside the home, officers found Guion in the basement “laying on the floor with a large pool of blood around his head.” He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Zipoy’s friend also told police the 24-year-old was “struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” after serving in the military. The friend added that while Zipoy had returned to Minnesota two years earlier, his behavior and communications had “become increasingly bizarre” in the weeks leading up to the murder. That friend also described him as a “big gun guy” who always carried a firearm.
During Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Brockton Hunter argued that Zipoy’s military service played a large role in his client’s deteriorating mental state, explaining that he “saw a significant amount of combat.”
“His unit worked with U.S. special operations forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces to drive ISIS” from the northern city of Raqqa, Hunter said. He also noted that soon after Zipoy returned to the United States, COVID-19 hit and the 24-year-old “seemed to decline” further because he couldn’t socialize with others.
Floyd’s May 2020 death and the national unrest that followed only exacerbated his failing mental health, Hunter said, and at one point he felt like he was back in Syria.
“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.”
A doctor concluded Zipoy suffered from schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and likely PTSD, according to the lawyer. Zipoy also told his doctor he had stopped taking his antidepressants.
A second state-arranged psych exam concluded that Zipoy “was far removed from the reality of his circumstances” when he shot Guion, whom he believed was a serial killer like Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski. Zipoy thought he needed “to free the world.”
Despite the court’s conclusion that Guion’s death was the result of Zipoy’s severe mental illness, the slain man’s family told the court they opposed the ruling.
“To have somebody killed right in front of me, somebody that I love so deeply, with that scene running through my head like a movie on a never-ending loop, is something that I am afraid will continue the rest of my life,” Candace Garlitos, Guion's granddaughter, said during the hearing.