A West Fargo man shot by two Becker County lawmen in September was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison Thursday, Aug. 8, in Becker County District Court.
The 189-month sentence given to Dean Robert Minnerath was the maximum amount available to Becker County District Judge Gretchen Thilmony within the state sentencing guidelines and under the terms of the plea agreement.
Minnerath, 56, was charged with felony first-degree assault for using, or attempting to use, deadly force against a law enforcement officer; felony second-degree assault with a firearm; felony possession of a firearm in violation of a court order prohibiting that because of past convictions; and felony fleeing a peace officer.
Minnerath was shot near Audubon on Sept. 28 after taking officers on a high-speed chase that reached speeds over 95 mph, according to an earlier Forum News Service story by Blake Gumprecht. Authorities received a report that night of a man, later identified as Minnerath, making threats to shoot or kill someone at the Cormorant Pub in Cormorant Village.
Deputy Daran Borth and Sgt. Dan May spotted Minnerath driving north on County Road 5. They tried to pull him over, but he refused to stop. At Highway 10, Minnerath turned east and the Minnesota State Patrol joined in pursuit. The chase ended east of Audubon after the State Patrol punctured his tires using stop sticks.
According to the BCA, Minnerath immediately got out of his vehicle “brandishing a rifle” and pointing it in the direction of the two Becker County officers. Both officers fired their guns, hitting Minnerath. Medics took him by ambulance to the Detroit Lakes airport, and he was flown by helicopter to Essentia Health in Fargo.
Minnerath’s mother, Judy Kenny, told Gumprecht that she believes that her son pointed his rifle at deputies because he feared returning to prison. “He told his wife many times he was never going back to prison and if he ever was pulled over he would pull a gun and have them kill him,” she said.
Kenny doesn’t believe her son intended to harm the officers. “My son is many things, a very confused boy to a very confused man, but I never thought he could be a killer, and I still don’t.”
Kenny, who lives in Mississippi, said her son was shot eight times — once in the mouth, once in the neck, twice in the chest and four times in the abdomen. She said he was in a medically induced coma for about three weeks, and that his jaw had to be rebuilt, but that doctors found no evidence of brain damage.
“I’m just stunned that he’s making it,” she told Gumprecht.
The criminal complaint against Minnerath says that when officers took possession of his rifle after the incident, they found bullets in the gun. But the complaint does not indicate that he fired the gun.
Minnerath has a long history of drug and alcohol problems, and has been in and out of prison and jail — for meth and marijuana, for repeatedly driving under the influence, but also for assault, making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, and resisting a police officer.
He had reasons to fear an encounter with police if he’d visited a bar or possessed a gun. Under the terms of a March 2017 drug conviction, he was forbidden from drinking, entering bars or liquor stores, or having contact with anyone while they are consuming alcohol or drugs. He was also under a lifetime ban from using or possessing a gun.
Both officers involved in the shooting returned to work on Oct. 24 after being placed on administrative leave following the shooting.
Minnerath pleaded guilty to count 1, felony first-degree assault for using, or attempting to use, deadly force against a law enforcement officer, on June 24.