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Duluth U-Haul chase suspect charged with attempted first-degree murder

Gary Wayne Cowan1 / 2
The scene near the intersection of Fifth Street and 11th Ave W. in the Observation Hill neighborhood where a hit and run accident involving a St. Louis County Sheriff's vehicle, a Duluth Police SUV and a U-Haul truck occurred early Saturday morning. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)2 / 2

DULUTH - The Duluth man who authorities say crashed a U-Haul truck into several vehicles and then tried to run down a police officer was charged this morning with attempted first-degree murder and 11 other counts in St. Louis County District Court in Duluth.

Gary Wayne Cowen, who turned 25 on Monday, was charged with a total of eight felonies, one gross misdemeanor and three misdemeanors. Judge Gerald C. Martin set bail at $300,000 and set Cowen's next court appearance for May 13.

Cowen was arrested about 4 a.m. Saturday, ending an incident during which Cowen allegedly tried running a Duluth police officer down with the U-Haul truck. Police say the officer -- Andrew Graves, a 2½-year veteran with the department -- fired his gun, striking the van. Following department policy, Graves is on paid administrative leave while the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigates the shooting, the first time in five years that a Duluth police officer has fired a gun in the line of duty.

The incident began when police responded to a report of a hit-and-run about 4 a.m. near Seventh Avenue West and West Second Street. A U-Haul truck was reported to have struck about 10 vehicles in a parking lot at that location.

Officers found the U-Haul near North 11th Avenue West and West Fifth Street, where it was later rear-ended by a police SUV.

During the chase, a St. Louis County sheriff's car suffered front-end damage and a sheriff's deputy was injured and required treatment at a local hospital.

Friday night, hours before the U-Haul incident, police issued Cowen a citation for tampering with a motor vehicle near 16th Avenue East. It is not clear when or how Cowen obtained the U-Haul, but on Saturday police said it appeared to have been stolen and that alcohol may have been involved.

An examination of Minnesota court records found nearly 20 charges against Cowen in seven cases in St. Louis and Ramsey Counties dating to 2004. Ten of the criminal charges -- possession of a controlled substance, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, tampering with a motor vehicle, damage to property, misdemeanor theft, reckless driving, failure to notify the owner of damaged property, invalid driver's license and fleeing a police officer -- were filed in a St. Louis County case in 2005.

In December of that year, he pleaded guilty to the charges of possession of a controlled substance, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, damage to property and reckless driving. He was fined $50 and sentenced to 28 months in prison. He was sentenced to a concurrent 28-month prison sentence for an earlier burglary charge.