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Mahnomen standoff ends when suspected gunman surrenders to officers

A White Earth Police car is parked at the western perimeter of a six block area police had blocked off in Mahnomen Wednesday afternoon. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE2 / 5
Members of the Red River Valley SWAT Team gather near a house where an armed suspect was holed-up Wednesday afternoon in Mahnomen. The man is suspected in the shooting of Mahnomen County deputy Christopher Dewey. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE3 / 5
Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, is a suspect in the Mahnomen shooting4 / 5
Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 32, is a suspect in the Mahnomen shooting.5 / 5

MAHNOMEN - An eight-hour police standoff that started when a Mahnomen County Sheriff's deputy was critically wounded ended peacefully around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 32, surrendered to police outside a mobile home a block west of the Mahnomen County Courthouse.

Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, surrendered outside the home at approximately 9:30 a.m., Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier said.

Fairbanks apparently lived there, said Krier.

Fairbanks has convictions for burglary, assault and theft, and Vernier has convictions for theft and assault, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch.

SWAT team negotiators were in intermittent contact with Fairbanks throughout the day, but it's not known what prompted him to surrender.

Deputy Christopher Dewey, 26, was shot at around 7 a.m. this morning. He remains in critical, yet stable condition at MeritCare in Fargo. Dewey underwent abdominal and brain surgery after receiving multiple gunshot wounds.

In the hour preceding the end of the standoff, authorities ramped up activity in the area. Police started clearing out residents from their homes in an extended area around the standoff site. The homes in the immediate vicinity of the scene were locked down earlier in the morning.

"The initial perimeter was evacuated right away," said Dave Bjerga, deputy superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, during the late afternoon press conference announcing the end of the standoff. "What was being done few minutes ago or an hour ago was evacuating a larger area, getting more people out of the way."

Bjerga said that no citizens were in danger.

Investigators are now turning their attention to collecting evidence and interviewing any potential witnesses.

"We're going to be doing a neighborhood canvass now," Bjerga said. "We're hoping that there will be some witnesses. We're trying to get a chance to get to those people we have evacuated.

"We're still trying to sort that out. We're hoping there are some people in the neighborhood that will give us eyewitness testimony."

Law enforcement agencies from throughout northwest Minnesota and beyond flocked to the scene, wanting to help apprehend those who had shot a fellow officer, Bjerga said.

"This is not unusual," Bjerga said, elaborating on the 18 agencies that were on the scene. "There's not a law enforcement agency in the state that didn't want to be here."

Krier said that he hasn't known of another case of a deputy being shot in Mahnomen County since he's been there.

"I'd say that nothing like that's happened in Mahnomen County," Krier said. "And I've been here 20 years."

That being said, Krier said that he never thought his department was immune from having an officer shot, but never thought it would hit that close to home.

"You never think it's going to happen since it's a small community where you know everybody," Krier said.

The incident began after Dewey responded to a call concerning erratic driving occurring within the city of Mahnomen. The car was located on Fifth Street about five blocks west of the courthouse and Dewey was able to track footprints back to the standoff location.

While Dewey was questioning one man, the other shot the officer twice, the sheriff said, adding that both men then holed up in the mobile home.

It was unknown Wednesday which of the two men shot Dewey.

Dewey's partner, who was a block or two away, quickly arrived on the scene after failing to get an answer by radio to a status check. He called for backup, and police quickly cordoned off the area.

A gun was not found, but Bjega believes a handgun was involved in the shooting.

Dewey was taken to the Mahnomen Health Center, where he was stabilized before being airlifted to MeritCare Hospital.

Dewey was first transported to Mahnomen Health Center by ambulance and later airlifted to MeritCare.