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Minnesota officers involved in September shooting of West Fargo man will not face criminal charges

Dean Robert Minnerath, 55, of West Fargo, was shot and wounded by Becker County sheriff's officers on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, near Audubon, Minn. Special to The Forum

BECKER COUNTY, Minn. — Two Becker County officers involved in a non-fatal September shooting after a high-speed chase will not face criminal charges, according to a recent memorandum from the Otter Tail County Attorney's Office.

The officers "acted properly and within the authorized use of forced permitted by Minnesota Statute," County Attorney David J. Hauser wrote in a letter dated Oct. 23 and sent to The Forum after a request. Therefore, he declined to prosecute.

According to the declination letter:

On Sept. 28, Becker County Deputy Daran Borth and Sgt. Dan May were in a pursuit that at times exceeded speeds of 95 mph after 55-year-old Dean Minnerath, who previously that night was the subject of a disturbance call at a rural pub.

The officers were told Minnerath was at the establishment "speaking of killing people," and he left with a passenger, Kristin Bjerke.

Multiple attempts to stop Minnerath were unsuccessful and the deputies reported "furtive movements being made by the occupants of the vehicle," and so there was "heightened concern for officer safety."

Other agencies and officers responded to the pursuit and Minnerath's vehicle came to a stop on Highway 10 outside of Audubon after a State Patrol trooper deployed traffic spike strips.

Borth and May reportedly saw the barrel of a Chinese, military style rifle in Minnerath's possession and thought he intended to cause harm as he got out of the vehicle. Both deputies admitted to firing their handguns until Minnerath fell to the ground.

"While neither Deputy remembers commands being given prior to the shooting, recordings reveal otherwise," Hauser wrote. May and Borth are clearly heard shouting to Minnerath multiple times to "show your hands," "get on the ground" and "stay down" before and after firing.

Hauser said dashcam videos "clearly show Minnerath getting out of his vehicle, after a high-speed chase, with a rifle and in a manner which would cause any reasonable person to believe they were under attack and in danger of being killed."

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officials interviewed the deputies, Bjerke and Minnerath's wife, Michele Minnerath. Michele Minnerath said she spoke that evening before the shooting with her husband, who told her "he had a gun and if they tried to pull him over he was going to make them shoot him."

Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said Friday that the shooting remains under investigation. Glander said the deputies wouldn't undergo additional training or face disciplinary actions internally as a result of the incident.

Earlier this week Glander told The Forum that the deputies returned to work Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Minnerath remains hospitalized and was charged with first-degree assault for attempting to use deadly force against a law enforcement officer and second-degree assault with a firearm. Minnerath also violated court orders prohibiting possession of a firearm for life.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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