North Dakota man gets 20 years for attempted murder of a SWAT officer
A Cooperstown, N.D., man convicted of shooting a SWAT team member in the helmet at close range was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison and five years of supervised probation.
A jury found 35-year-old Darin Dahl guilty of attempted murder and reckless endangerment in state District Court in June. Dahl was accused of firing on officers with a shotgun during an April 2008 standoff at a Luverne, N.D., home.
On Wednesday, Steele County State's Attorney Charlie Stock told Judge Steven Marquart that Dahl acted without provocation when he opened fire.
"I think it's time Mr. Dahl face the music for his acts," Stock said.
Stock highlighted Dahl's criminal past and told the judge that Dahl is likely to re-offend.
Dahl's father, Donald, spoke at the hearing, saying his son is a smart man who was always kind to his nieces and nephews but struggled with mental-health issues.
"I've gone through counseling with him since the time he was in school," Donald Dahl said.
He told the judge that before the standoff, he had spoken with authorities about getting help for his son.
"I told the sheriff somebody's going to get killed before this thing's over with," he said. "Maybe this way he can get some help."
Dahl's mental health was a topic leading up to and during the trial. His court-appointed attorney, Blake Hankey, argued Wednesday that his client, who suffers from schizophrenia, can thrive under the right circumstances.
"When Mr. Dahl is on his proper medication and he is being monitored, he does well," Hankey said.
On behalf of Dahl, Hankey apologized to the officer Dahl shot and told the judge that Dahl said that, had he known the man was a police office, he wouldn't have opened fire. But the judge brushed off that point.
"It doesn't matter that it was a police officer. He was a human being, and you threatened his life," the judge said.
Hankey sought a sentence of five years in prison and five years of supervised probation, but Marquart followed Stock's recommendation. The 20 years in prison, the maximum for a Class A felony, was for the attempted-murder conviction, and the five years of probation was for the reckless-endangerment conviction.
Dahl -- who had outbursts at past hearings, including throwing a pen at the judge -- was well-behaved Wednesday. When given the chance to speak, Dahl told the judge: "I'm going to use the time that I have in prison to try and better myself."
Hankey said he expects to file a notice of appeal by the end of next week.
In October 2008, a jury convicted Dahl of reckless endangerment for shooting at a rural Griggs County home in April 2008. Because of that incident, officers went to the Luverne home, where Dahl was staying, and the standoff ensued.
The officer Dahl shot and several other members of the Red River Valley SWAT Team attended Wednesday's hearing.
"We found the court's decision just and justified," said the team's commander, Fargo police Lt. Pat Claus. "It is definitely hard on us when we realize that in this particular case millimeters of Kevlar saved one of our own."