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The Detroit Lakes Fire Department blocks West Lake Drive on Friday in front of Zorbaz during the standoff at the Pine to Palm Motel. Brian Wierima / Forum Communications Co.

Five-hour standoff ends with man's arrest at Detroit Lakes motel

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A 37-year-old man was arrested without incident after holding police at bay in a Detroit Lakes motel for nearly five hours.

David William Buethner, who has lived for the past few weeks at the Pine to Palm Motel on West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes, was arrested and taken to the Becker County Jail about 8:30 p.m.

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According to Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena, Buethner called the police himself about 3:45 p.m. Friday, saying he had been drinking for four weeks straight and was off his medication.

He had been served civil papers on Friday that triggered the crisis, Keena said, declining to elaborate.

Detroit Lakes Police Sgt. Robert Strand responded to his call, not knowing quite what to expect, and was surprised to see that he had a gun.

"My understanding was the guy was kind of concealing it," said Sgt. Tim Eggebraaten "He had it in his hand, and our officer didn't see it right away."

In fact, after his arrest, police found a long gun and three handguns, along with about 1,500 rounds of ammunition, Keena said.

The standoff resulted in the evacuation of the motel and nearby residences and businesses. A several block area of West Lake Drive, which parallels the Detroit Lakes City Beach, was closed to the public.

The Otter Tail County SWAT team, along with Detroit Lakes Police and Becker County Sheriff's deputies, contained the suspect.

Dan Ianiro, a Pine to Palm guest who said his room was near the suspect's room, said he was getting ready to leave the motel when he heard a police officer shouting "he's got a gun!"

After calling 911, Ianiro said the dispatcher advised him to leave the room as soon as possible through the back window.

"(The dispatcher) said don't go out the front, you have to go out the back," said Stacey Ianiro.

When he climbed out the back window with his wife on his back, he saw about 20 police officers pointing their weapons toward the motel.

Then he was told to head to Zorbaz restaurant down the road.

"All the guys with the automatic rifle weapons told us to come down here," Ianiro said.

He said Buethner had talked to him earlier and was despondent about domestic problems.

Sarah Thunder, also a Pine to Palm guest, put her son in the shower after her kids were dropped off shortly after 3:30 p.m., when she decided to go out for a cigarette.

"That's when I heard, "Get the (heck) out!" said Thunder. "I couldn't find the voice where it came from, then I saw a cop holding a sniper gun in the back of the trees.

"It scared the (crap) out of me and I ran in and grabbed my son out of the shower. You didn't have to tell me twice."

Thunder said after that, a "storm of cops" came blazing in.

"The hotel was pretty full, too, and they got everyone out of there quick."

She said Buethner was an Iraq War veteran.

Eggebraaten said Buethner has been involved with the police at least once in the past, and specifically asked to talk to Dale Stoll of the Fargo Police Department.

"Because of past rapport with him, he trusted him," Eggebraaten said.

Buethner was non-threatening during the standoff, but told officers that he would respond if backed into a corner, Eggebraaten said.

"He was calm -- he even mentioned that one of our officers was exposed and should move. He said his intention wasn't to hurt us, but if we came in and pushed around, he would push back," Eggebraaten said.

Buethner was taken to Essentia St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes on a 72-hour mental health hold, and is under police guard, Keena said.

The Becker County Attorney's Office will make a decision Monday on whether to file criminal charges or treat it as a case of mental illness, Keena said.

Keena praised the way his officers handled the situation.

"No weapons were fired, no one was hurt," he said. "We had all the time in the world -- to do it by the book, it just takes time. You follow proven methods, and that's what we did."

Assisting at the scene were the Becker County Sheriff's Department, the Frazee Police Department, the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department, the Fergus Falls Police Department, the Detroit Lakes Fire Department, the White Earth Tribal Police Department, St. Mary's EMS, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Perham Police Department, the Grant County Sheriff's Department, the Fargo Police Department and Detroit Lakes Public Utilities.

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