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Doctors say they are 'optimistic' about deputy's prognosis after surgeries on head, abdomen

A law enforcement officer prepares a weapon about two blocks away from the site of a standoff Wednesday in Mahnomen. (Dave Wallis / The Forum)1 / 3
Red River Valley SWAT team members gather near the site of a standoff Wednesday morning in Mahnomen where a deputy sheriff was shot. (Dave Wallis / The Forum)2 / 3
Christopher Dewey3 / 3

Christopher Dewey, a Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy, is in critical condition but is stable following two surgeries for gunshot wounds to his head and abdomen after he went to investigate reports of gunshots this morning.

Dewey, 26, is in a medically induced coma at MeritCare Hospital, where he was airlifted after being shot twice while investigating an incident that began as a report of a drunken driver leaving the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen.

Dewey's "vital signs are very strong," but he suffered a severe brain injury from a gunshot wound to the right, front side of his head, said a surgeon who operated on Dewey's abdomen wound, finding an entrance and exit wound with laceration to the liver, which was repaired.

"He will almost definitely need future surgery for his head injury," said Dr. Robert Sticca, a general surgeon. The wound injured the right side of Dewey's brain so doctors are monitoring the functioning of the left side of his brain. Dr. Chad Justesen, a neurosurgeon, performed the second surgery, which was completed at 1:20 p.m.

Dewey is an Isanti, Minn., native, who graduated from Hibbing Community College in 2003 with an associate's degree in law enforcement, according to his page on the social networking Web site MySpace. Dewey is also listed as married and has photos from his wedding on the site.

Doug Krier, the Mahnomen County sheriff, said his wife is with Dewey's wife, providing moral support as a second surgery is under way.

When asked about Dewey's chances for survival, Sticca responded, "We're optimistic."

Dewey was stabilized at Mahnomen Health Center and transferred to MeritCare, arriving via LifeFlight air ambulance at 8:25 a.m. Sticca credited the quick response of authorities in Mahnomen with Dewey's condition.

"They did exactly what they're supposed to do," he said, noting Dewey arrived in very stable condition. The deputy was partially awake in Mahnomen before being placed on a ventilator. He was not awake when he arrived in Fargo, Sticca said.

It is unclear whether Dewey was wearing a bulletproof vest. Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, who is acting as a spokesman for Dewey's family, said each department sets its own regulations and he was unaware of Mahnomen's policy.

"I don't know too many in the field that don't wear them," Laney said, noting his own department does not mandate vests, but recommends them.

Meanwhile, police have made intermittent phone contact with one suspect who remains in a trailer house about a block west of the Mahnomen County Courthouse. A second suspect surrendered and is being questioned, said Dave Bjerga, deputy superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"It's a very fluid situation," Bjerga said. "We still have a situation going on."

Police SWAT teams continue their vigil today outside the trailer home, once occupied by two armed suspects who sought a hideout after a deputy was shot "multiple times" while investigating reports of gunshots early this morning.

Earlier in the morning, while both suspects were still in the home, they ignored police with a bullhorn ordering them to "come out with your hands up."

Some 40 to 50 law enforcement squad cars, lights flashing, were parked in various positions in the street, starting near the house and lining down several blocks of the quiet residential neighborhood.

Officers holding rifles crouched behind open car doors and behind vehicles facing the house. Further back, other officers changed into bullet proof vests and put on insulated coveralls and boots in the face of 20-below wind chills.

A reporter witnessed officers obtaining a room layout of the house from a young man who lives about two blocks away and was familiar with the house.

The young man told a reporter that "my brother shot a cop." The man said the suspects wanted to surrender, but were afraid they'd be shot by officers when they left the house. He said his brother wanted him to come over and lead the suspects out of the house.

The man left with officers, but then returned about 10 minutes later.

He said the suspects had been drinking.

Downtown Mahnomen, a farming community of 1,200 people in north-central Minnesota, is swarming with law enforcement officers who converged on the scene after the incident.

Normal routines were disrupted by the standoff, which crept along from early morning into the afternoon. Children on their way to school saw deputies with guns drawn, and nearby residents were evacuated as a safety precaution.

The standoff ensued after reports around 4 a.m. this morning that a possible drunken driver had left the Shooting Star Casino, a large entertainment complex in Mahnomen.

An area near the Mahnomen County Courthouse is cordoned off, with officers maintaining a perimeter to keep bystanders away. Several vans belonging to the Red River Valley SWAT team are among those on the scene.

The Minnesota State Patrol and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also have tactical teams on hand, and officers from Cass, Clay, Becker and Polk counties are among those on hand, along with tribal police from the White Earth Indian Reservation.

In the search for the drunken driver, the deputy found a vehicle matching the description outside a home in Mahnomen, law enforcement officers said earlier this morning, but found no suspect. About 6:20 a.m., police received a call reporting gunshots.

A deputy returned to the area to investigate at about 7:10 a.m. A minute later, another deputy reported to the scene when he received no response to a query about Dewey's status. The second officer found Dewey lying on a driveway, with "multiple gunshot wounds," according to Krier, the Mahnomen County sheriff.

The deputy was taken to the Mahnomen hospital, then airlifted by LifeFlight helicopter ambulance to MeritCare Hospital at 8:25 a.m., where he was undergoing surgery and in critical condition, the sheriff said.

The wounded deputy is a four-year veteran, Krier said.

Another press briefing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Bjerga said police hope to have the standoff resolved by then.