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Report fills in details of Mahnomen deputy shooting

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Report fills in details of Mahnomen deputy shooting
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

It was just before dawn Wednesday when Deputy Christopher Dewey pulled up to 323 Washington Ave. in his squad car.

He'd already been in the neighborhood twice that morning investigating reports of a possible drunken driver and shots fired.

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This time, two men were knocking on Amanda Helms' door.

After arriving at 7:10 a.m., Dewey found Thomas Lee Fairbanks and Daniel Kurt Vernier standing on Helms' steps.

When he got within a few feet of the men, Dewey asked them to show him their hands. Vernier stepped off the steps; Dewey moved to the side as he passed.

Fairbanks stepped forward, pulling a 9-mm handgun from his pocket. He fired at least twice, hitting the Mahnomen County deputy in the abdomen and head.

About a block away, Deputy Chad Peterson heard three shots and radioed his partner to see if he also heard them. When Dewey didn't respond, Peterson rushed over.

Vernier darted across the street to Fairbanks' mobile home at 402 W. Washington Ave., but Fairbanks caught up with him and demanded they get into Dewey's squad car and take off.

Peterson found Dewey on the ground and saw the men running toward Fairbanks' home. One had a handgun.

Peterson fired a shot, striking Fairbanks in the abdomen before the pair reached the home that would be the focus of a nearly nine-hour standoff.

Four shots were fired from within the home, with at least two aimed at authorities. Officers heard shots about 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Soon after that, Vernier walked out, bringing the gun with him and leaving Fairbanks inside.

Those details and several that follow were released Friday through court documents and a news conference after Fairbanks' and Vernier's initial court appearance on 39 charges related to the incident.

Dewey, 26, remains in critical condition at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital but is communicating with family and breathing without the aid of a ventilator.

Peterson has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting, which is standard procedure, said Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier.

"As long as the officer himself or someone else is in fear of death or great bodily harm, they can justifiably use deadly force," said Dave Bjerga, an assistant superintendent with Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating both shootings.

Fairbanks suffered a minor injury and was treated and released Wednesday. The bullet struck him but didn't lodge in his body, Bjerga said. Fairbanks appeared to walk with a bit of difficulty during his court appearance Friday in Mahnomen County District Court.

Judge Michael Kraker set bail at $1 million for Fairbanks, 32, and $500,000 surety bond or $50,000 cash for Vernier, 27.

Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman cited the first- and second-degree attempted murder charges when seeking the additional bail for Fairbanks.

Fairbanks grew up in the Champlin, Minn., area, but returned to Mahnomen in July 2008 because his father was battling cancer, said Kip Fontaine, the attorney representing both men Friday.

Fairbanks, a father of four, lives in the home he and Vernier ran to with the mother of his 10-month-old child, Fontaine said, telling Kraker $1 million is an "impossible" bail amount.

Authorities said after Friday's court hearing that they still don't have a motive for the shooting.

"This is a senseless crime. They were being investigated at that point for a possible DUI and erratic driving," Bruggeman said.

Authorities are still piecing together details of what happened Wednesday morning, such as whether there were three shots or two fired at Dewey, who wore a bullet-proof vest, Krier said.

"There's some speculation that the shot to the head is the second shot," Bruggeman said in response to circulating reports that the shot to Dewey's head may have been execution style. Authorities will know more once medical reports are examined, she said.

The prosecutor said Vernier has been cooperating with authorities.

Also Friday, Krier credited Peterson's actions with helping keep the community safe while also attending to his partner and monitoring the suspects.

"Peterson had remained composed in a situation where he could have easily fallen apart," Krier said.

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