A Fergus Falls man suspected of shooting at his estranged wife’s car on Interstate 94 died early Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a confrontation with police officers, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Richard David Blondeau, 52, was armed with a shotgun when officers, assisted by a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter using infrared technology, found him in a farm field by I-94, said the BCA, which is investigating his death.
The BCA’s preliminary investigation showed that Blondeau disregarded repeated orders to drop the gun and pointed it at police. Three Fergus Falls police officers then shot at Blondeau, and he subsequently fell to the ground, the BCA said.
It was at some point during this confrontation that Blondeau shot and killed himself, BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said. “We’re still working through kind of the order of how things played out,” she said.
An autopsy completed Monday determined that Blondeau’s death was a suicide, but Oliveira could not say whether any of the officers’ bullets struck Blondeau. No officers were injured, Oliveira said.
The officers who fired their guns were Chief Kile Bergren, Sgt. Connor West and Officer Matthew Cederberg, the BCA said.
All three officers and a fourth officer who did not open fire were placed on paid administrative leave, a standard practice after officers are involved in a shooting.
Blondeau’s encounter with police came after his estranged wife, 48-year-old Linda Jo Blondeau, called 911 about 1:30 a.m. Sunday and reported that he had just shot her car three times while she was driving.
Investigators don’t know if Blondeau just happened to see his wife on I-94 or if he had been following her, said Lt. Barry Fitzgibbons of the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office.
Fitzgibbons said the Blondeaus were not living together. Court documents show that the couple was going through a divorce.
Blondeau’s wife told police she was traveling west on I-94 just west of Fergus Falls when Blondeau drove next to her car, the BCA said. In the car with Blondeau’s wife was a male acquaintance, Fitzgibbons said, adding that the man was not her boyfriend.
From the passing lane, Blondeau fired a shotgun through his car’s passenger window, hitting his wife’s car. Blondeau’s wife then exited I-94 onto U.S. Highway 59, and he fired a second shot. She turned east on County Road 88, and he fired a third shot, the BCA said.
All three shots struck the driver’s side of his wife’s car by the back door and trunk, Fitzgibbons said.
Blondeau’s wife continued east toward Fergus Falls. Her husband eventually stopped chasing her, and she called 911 from a nearby business, the BCA said. She and the man in her car were not hurt, Fitzgibbons said.
The 911 call prompted Otter Tail County sheriff’s deputies, Fergus Falls police and Minnesota State Patrol troopers to search for Blondeau.
Officers discovered his car west of Fergus Falls in a ditch near a farm field by eastbound I-94. The car was empty, but the State Patrol helicopter helped officers find Blondeau about a half-mile from the interstate, the BCA said.
Fitzgibbons said investigators are looking into whether the Blondeaus had a history of domestic violence. Court records, while they contain no allegations of violence, provide some evidence of marital strife.
In April, Linda Jo Blondeau sought a protection order against her husband, and a judge ordered that he could only communicate with her by text or email regarding the exchange of their children or emergencies regarding the children.
In June, Richard Blondeau pleaded guilty to violating that order by sending his wife messages outside of the bounds set by the judge. The misdemeanor conviction led to a two-day jail sentence and fees of $385.
Attempts to reach Linda Jo Blondeau by phone were not successful Monday. Fergus Falls police referred questions to the BCA.