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Bemidji man faces assault charges after 2-month-old suffers brain injury

By Crystal Dey / Bemidji Pioneer

A Bemidji man is being charged with first-degree assault after allegedly striking an infant in the face, shaking the baby and then dropping him while attempting to answer his cell phone.

Donny Lee Carlsen, 38, was booked into the Beltrami County Jail on Thursdayafter being served an arrest warrant on July 8. Carlsen is accused of inflicting injuries on his 8-week-old son on July 6.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. July 6, Beltrami County deputies responded to a 911 call regarding a baby that was having difficulty breathing in Frohn Township. Upon arrival, officers observed a baby who was pale, had a rapid pulse and was gasping for air, according to court documents.

The child was transported to the emergency room at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and then life-flighted to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. Doctors there determined the boy had cranial hemorrhaging, which was both subdural and subarachnoid, according to court documents. It was also noted there were several marks on the baby’s neck, forehead and scalp. After an MRI on the child was completed, doctors told investigators the injuries were not consistent with an infant being dropped from four feet and there was damage to the baby’s brain stem, court documents stated. The baby had limited brain activity and was put on a full ventilator, according to the documents.

Carlsen first stated he dropped his son from approximately four feet while attempting to answer his cell phone, according to a criminal complaint. Court documents say Carlsen later told law enforcement he was awoken by his son crying at about 8 a.m. on July 6.

“He said that his son rejected the pacifier and that he then backhanded his son to the face with a closed fist. Carlsen said that he then shook his son several times but dropped him when he received a phone call,” court documents stated.

Sanford Medical Center Fargo confirmed the infant was a patient as of Monday, but could not provide a condition update at the request of family.

Carlsen faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. He is being held at the Beltrami County Jail and is scheduled to appear in Beltrami County Court on Tuesday afternoon. Carlsen’s criminal background includes a conviction for disorderly conduct in May 2013.