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Grand Jury indicts Fairbanks on first-degree murder charge in Deputy Dewey shooting

A photo of Deputy Christopher Dewey, taken from his MySpace page.1 / 2
Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 32, is a suspect in the Mahnomen shooting.2 / 2

Late Thursday afternoon, a grand jury in Mahnomen County District Court returned a 13-count indictment against the man accused of shooting Mahnomen County Deputy Christopher Dewey.

Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 33, of Mahnomen is now charged with murder in the first degree of a peace officer and 12 other felony counts.

They include failure to render aid, and six counts of first-degree assault. Listed as the first-degree assault victims are Mahnomen County deputies Chad Peterson, Brady Burnside, Ben Bruce, Teresa Collins and Paul Osowski, as well as White Earth tribal police officers Jeremy Cossette, Justin Evans and Chris Triplett, State Trooper Brad Norland and Polk County Deputy Matt Hitchen.

Three charges of second-degree assault were also filed, with the victims listed as Richard Fox, Alfred Fox and Daniel Vernier.

Daniel Kurt Vernier, 28, was accused of being an accomplice in the shooting. He pleaded guilty last year to failing to render assistance to Dewey and is serving a two-year prison term.

He's expected to testify against Fairbanks at trial.

Fairbanks is also charged with felon in possession of a firearm and attempted theft of a motor vehicle (he attempted to back up Dewey's squad car after the shooting).

Fairbanks is accused of shooting Dewey once in the head and twice in the belly on Feb. 18, 2009, in the city of Mahnomen as the deputy was investigating a report of drunken driving.

After the shooting Fairbanks and Vernier were involved in a six-hour standoff with police that ended with their surrender.

Numerous felony charges were earlier filed in Mahnomen County District Court against Fairbanks, including a charge of attempted murder that was amended to second-degree murder two days after Dewey died on Aug. 9.

Conviction on a charge of first-degree murder carries a mandatory punishment of life in prison. The maximum prison term for second-degree murder convictions is 40 years.

"The murder of an officer is an offense against every citizen of this State, and this indictment reflects that," said Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson