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A photo of David Lood (left) and Quincy Pederson at Lood's wedding. Pederson was the best man.

Drug relapse triggered former Two Harbors man's fatal tailspin

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Surrounded by photos of his best friend and the best man at his wedding, David Lood tries to hold back tears as he talks about Quincy Adam Pederson, the man he said was like his brother.

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"He cared about everything. He just cared," said Lood, 39, who lives in Duluth and grew up with Pederson in Larsmont near Two Harbors. "That's what makes the last five days out of the last 38 years of unconditional caring so tragic. It's just so tragic."

Lood, along with friends and family of Pederson, are trying to make sense out of how a man who was beloved by so many could be consumed by drugs and have his life end in an armed standoff with Cook County deputies and the State Patrol.

Pederson died Tuesday after leading officers on a short chase that ended when he lost control of a stolen SUV on Cook County Road 60 near Grand Marais.

"A brief confrontation took place, gunshots were fired and the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene," according to a statement from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. "No law enforcement officers were injured."

The four officers involved -- Chief Deputy Leif Lunde, Deputy John Hughes, Deputy David Gilmore and Trooper Chris Thostenson -- are on paid administrative leave while the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigates the shooting, which is standard procedure. Autopsy results might be available today.

"Nobody could have seen this coming," Lood said. "Not even the people closest to him would have seen this coming."

Ask the waitress at the Vanilla Bean coffee shop in Two Harbors if she knew Pederson, and the response is immediate.

"Oh yeah," said Melanie Ross, who went to high school with Pederson. "He was such a nice guy. What a shock."

ESCALATING PATTERN OF DRUG USE

Pederson, 38, was well-known in Two Harbors, where he went to high school and was a member of the choir and football team before graduating in 1989.

"Quinn was a friend of everyone," said Pederson's sister, Melissa Johnson. "Everybody knew who he was."

After high school, Johnson said her brother began working at a Two Harbors resort, where he began using drugs.

"It was something he said they all did," she said.

At around the age of 23, Johnson said her brother moved to California, where he got a degree in environmental studies from Feather River College. But Pederson's drug use while there, Johnson said, also got worse.

"It was daily," she said. "But I think it was just pot. His attitude was that marijuana wouldn't hurt him."

About five years ago Pederson returned to Minnesota. Johnson and other friends and family suspected Pederson was using more dangerous drugs, but he hid his use well and it was an issue they "treated with kid gloves."

"He just didn't want to talk about it," she said. "When he was using drugs, he was just not in that good a mood, and that was rare."

Pederson struggled to stay sober, with family saying he often used methamphetamines and crack. He went to rehabilitation four times, most recently being released from a program two weeks ago.

"He seemed optimistic," Johnson said.

Lood said he talked to his friend around that time.

"He was so happy and in such a good place," he said. "He was so happy with everything."

Pulling himself from addiction

Johnson said her brother had a job lined up with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Pederson's stepfather, Gary Hanson, said he was talking about marrying his girlfriend. Instead, Johnson said, Pederson relapsed.

What he apparently did after that is harder to explain.

"Maybe he was disappointed in himself that he had fallen off the wagon," Johnson said. "I think he lost hope and had given up."

He apparently tried using his girlfriend's debit card April 29 to get some cash.

"That's when it all started," said friend Linda Ayde of Roseville, Minn. "He called her right after he had robbed the Subway and his last words to her were: 'I love you.' And he hung up."

Police believe Pederson robbed a Subway in North St. Paul that night, carrying a black and silver handgun and ordering an employee to take all the $5 and $20 bills from the till and put them on the counter. Before leaving, he told the employee to lie on the floor and count to 100.

Shortly afterward, a Maplewood police officer tried to stop a van driven by someone who resembled Pederson. The van driver fled and fired about 10 shots, hitting the squad car three times. Police believe Pederson then stole a white Ford Expedition in St. Paul.

Pederson was wanted on charges of first-degree assault and aggravated robbery when he fled officers Tuesday in Cook County.

"Without the drugs this never would have happened," said Heidi Holveck, who graduated in the same high school class as Pederson. "That wasn't Quincy."

Pederson and his girlfriend attended the Recovery Church in St. Paul, where Pastor Joe Campe said Pederson was a nice guy active in worship.

"It's hard to imagine someone serving communion one week and then two weeks later using crack and using a gun. But that's what happens when some of us go back to using again," said Campe, a recovering alcoholic. "Your mind gets hijacked and you become someone no one would believe."

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