Grand Forks man appears on standoff charges
The Grand Forks man who stood off a police SWAT team for hours from inside a house next to the Grand Cities Mall Sunday appeared on three felony charges Monday in state district court.
Steve Bonderud, 25, was charged by prosecutors with three Class B felonies, each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if he’s convicted: arson, burglary and criminal mischief.
Meredith Larson, assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County asked state District Judge Karen Braaten for a relatively steep bond of $20,000 for Bonderud, citing “community safety” concerns.
He endangered a neighborhood and “he was making suicidal comments,” Larson said.
Prosecutors say Bonderud intended to burn down the house, listed as worth nearly $140,000, and that he did do more than $10,000 in damages.
Officer Bethany Skari responded to the 911 call at 10:24 a.m. Sunday, minutes before worship services were to begin at two churches less than a block from the blue rambler at 1707 17th St., bordering the west edge of the Grand Cities Mall.
Bethel Lutheran Brethren Church is at 1616 S. 17th St., just north of the house. Hope Covenant is on the west end of the mall, just east of the house.
Police asked both congregations to evacuate their premises toward the end of their worship times.
The home’s owner was in the driveway when Skari arrived and told the officer she was selling the home, according to Skari’s affidavit of probable cause. The woman said “she received messages from Bonderud that he had broken into her residence and was damaging her property.”
Other officers arrived and while talking to the owner, noticed smoke coming from the roof vent. The owner said “she had received text messages from Bonderud of a handgun and he stated he would not be taken alive,” Skari wrote in her affidavit.
The regional SWAT team arrived, noticed movement in the house and made contact with Bonderud by phone.
“He admitted to starting several small fires in the residence and being armed with multiple firearms.”
Police used Bethel Lutheran across 17th Avenue as a command center of sorts.
By 2 p.m. Bonderud surrendered, and no one was hurt. He was evaluated at Altru Hospital then taken to jail.
Bonderud appeared Monday in court via interactive TV from the jail with his attorney, David Dusek. Judge Braaten set his preliminary hearing for June 3 and he remained in jail Monday night.
According to online sources, Bonderud grew up in Grand Forks and has worked as a truck mechanic and driver. He’s has won local awards in shotgun trap shooting.
He gave his address as in the Burdick development west of Interstate 29 where a relative is listed as the homeowner.
In April 2009, Bonderud pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassing wildlife with a motor vehicle for running over a deer with a snowmobile.
In 2007, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct in Grand Forks.
The Rev. Jeff Stephan, pastor of Bethel, said he learned just before the last song of the service that something was going on nearby.
“We were told there was a fire,” he said. He ended the service at about 11:30 a.m. and members already had begun filtering to the basement for a potluck meal. “Then police told us they would feel better if we evacuated,” Stephan said. “We were pretty calm.” Everyone left out of the parking lot on the north side of the church.
He’s never had a service interrupted by a police action before, Stephan said.
“It was a great opportunity for us to pray for (Bonderud), that he wouldn’t be hurt or others wouldn’t be hurt.”
As it happens, that’s what happened. Stephan said the congregation will continue to keep those involved in the incident in special prayers in weeks ahead.
Article written by Stephen J. Lee of the Grand Forks Herald