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Mahnomen County Sheriff: Dewey will be greatly missed

Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier speaks with members of the media Monday afternoon about the death of Mahnomen County deputy Christopher Dewey who was wounded in the line of duty almost 18 months ago. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Chris Dewey's co-worker and friend Brad Teich describes him as a "Gentle Giant."

"He was just a big kid. He was always the quieter one in the room," Teich said.

After hanging on and fighting for his life for 18 months, the Mahnomen County deputy died at 10:33 a.m. Monday. He was 27.

Hearing the news took Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier and his officers back to February 18, 2009 -- the day Dewey's battle all began.

Standing just a few miles down the road from where Dewey was shot once in the head and twice in the stomach, while investigating a report of a drunken driver in Mahnomen, Krier was remorseful, but thankful that his former partner can now rest peacefully surrounded by his loved ones in Princeton, Minn.

"Chris is probably sitting in a boat somewhere throwing a line in the water," Krier said Monday evening outside of the Mahnomen County Courthouse. "He loved to fish."

Krier said he spoke to Dewey's wife, Emily Dewey, moments after Dewey passed away when she told him that it's OK to feel sorry, but at one point, "you gotta feel glad."

Emily, Chris's high school sweetheart and wife of three years, wrote a brief message on his CaringBridge website Monday announcing his death.

"Chris's long and painful battle is over. At 10:33 a.m. he went peacefully with the lord."

After months of surgery for critical injuries to his brain and liver, rehab and setbacks, Dewey was placed on hospice care on July 15 after his lung collapsed from Botox injection complications.

Hundred of thousands of people followed Dewey's story from the start. They organized fundraisers, candlelight vigils and tributes to make sure he knew he was not alone.

"People are coming together and they're willing to support our officers, even though they didn't know him," Krier said.

A spaghetti feed held last December in West Fargo raised more than $25,000 for Dewey. A candlelight vigil and balloon release held in July along Highway 59 in Detroit Lakes brought dozens of supporters out to show their appreciation for Dewey's public service.

"He's gonna be missed greatly," Krier said.

Dewey's badge number "909" will be retired, but Mahnomen County deputies plan to honor it by plastering it on all of their squad cars.

Funeral service

Visitation will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18 followed by a funeral service at Living Word Church in Plymouth. Interment will take place at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis.

The entire Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department plans to attend. There will be deputies from surrounding counties patrolling Mahnomen while they're at the service, Krier said.

New charges coming

The man accused of shooting Dewey, Thomas Lee Fairbanks, of Anoka, Minn., is currently facing numerous charges, including first-degree attempted murder.

Those charges will soon be modified, according to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, whose office is handling the case.

"Our prosecutors expect to file upgraded criminal charges in light of this tragic death," Swanson said in a written statement Monday.

"I offer my deepest condolences to Deputy Dewey's family," Swanson said. "This officer was brutally attacked while protecting the community and our whole state mourns his loss."

A co-defendant in the shooting, Daniel Kurt Vernier, pleaded guilty to charges in Mahnomen County District Court and was sentenced in September to two years in prison.

"A lot of it is a sense of relief and looking for that bit of closure so we can move on as a department and as individuals," Teich said.

Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report.