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Man charged in Herald gun case appears in court

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Bail was set at $3,000 cash or surety during the initial court appearance Thursday for Philip Manaigre, the Grand Forks man charged in connection with a loaded shotgun found hidden last week in a cabinet in the Herald's downtown building.

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Manaigre, 22, appeared in state district court via interactive video from the Grand Forks County jail. He was arrested just before midnight Wednesday after a six-hour standoff with police ended with a forcible entry to the mobile home off Columbia Road South.

Manaigre had bailed out of jail before 6 p.m. Thursday.

During the hearing, through his attorney, James Hovey, Manaigre asked for a preliminary hearing on the Class C felony charge of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

State District Judge Debbie Kleven set the preliminary "probable cause" hearing for April 5 and set bond where Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Yon requested it: $2,500 for the felony charge and $500 for a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in connection to the shotgun being hidden at the Herald.

The felony charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine and a minimum mandatory fine of $500, Kleven told Manaigre. He said nothing during his 10-minute appearance except to reply in the affirmative or negative to the judge's routine questions and say, politely, "Thank you," at the end.

Kleven told Manaigre that one of the conditions of his bond would be that he surrender any weapons he might possess. Manaigre told Kleven he has no weapons nor any access to any firearms or other weapons.

Hovey declined comment after the hearing, saying he first had to meet with Manaigre.

During the hearing, Hovey told Kleven that while he did not object to the bail amount, he thought it was important to note that Manaigre had no weapons in his home Wednesday night during the standoff and made no threats or acts of violence. A police search of his home after he surrendered after police breached his door when hours of bullhorn negotiations got no response found no weapons, Hovey told the court.

But prosecutor Yon told Kleven that Manaigre's refusal to allow police to serve the arrest warrant Wednesday night meant a large contingent of law enforcement spent hours waiting him out. Police had concerns about Manaigre's "mental stability" and whether he would harm himself or others, Yon said.

The Grand Forks Regional SWAT and crisis negotiation teams spent several hours surrounding Manaigre's mobile home, asking him to give them some response and to give himself up.

The homes adjacent to Manaigre's were evacuated during the standoff.

At 11:50 p.m., police rushed the front door and breached it. Manaigre was right there and surrendered without any struggle, Capt. Kerwin Kjelstrom said about midnight Wednesday.

Kleven referred during the hearing to Manaigre's 2008 conviction for reckless endangerment for firing a handgun inside a Grand Forks residence.

Yon said that conviction made it a felony for Manaigre to possess a firearm. She also cited other misdemeanor convictions for drunken driving and drug possessions on his record, which, she said, "for a man his age, it is lengthy."

That 2008 conviction and the investigation into the incident that happened in December 2007 played a key role in the police investigation of the hidden shotgun as well as in the prosecution's decision to charge Manaigre with a felony.

In December 2007, Manaigre was arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment for firing a handgun inside a Grand Forks home.

He pleaded guilty in early 2008 and served about 60 days in jail.

After the shotgun was found Feb. 22 in the Herald building, Manaigre was fingered as a possible suspect because of his previous gun-related conviction.

An investigative photograph taken two years ago of the interior of the home involved in the 2007 shooting showed a Mossberg shotgun identical to the one found in the Herald, Det. Mike Flannery said in the criminal complaint.

So, police homed in on Manaigre as the chief suspect in the hidden shotgun.

In an interview Tuesday with police, Manaigre admitted owning the shotgun that was in the house back in 2007 and leaving it late last year at the Herald, Flannery said.

Manaigre told police he kept it in the Herald because "he needed it for self-protection," from people outside the Herald who had been after him. It was possibly related to an incident last year in which Manaigre reported to police he had been beaten and robbed of about $150.

Manaigre told police this week he was transferred by the janitorial company from working at the Herald on Dec. 9 and never retrieved the shotgun because he forgot he had left it there.

Ordinarily, leaving even a loaded gun in such a hiding place wouldn't be considered a serious crime or maybe a crime at all, law enforcement sources say.

But because of his previous misdemeanor conviction involving firing the handgun, Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte decided late Wednesday to charge Manaigre with a Class C felony.

A state law prohibits someone who has committed a Class A misdemeanor using a weapon and involving "violence or intimidation," from possessing or being in control of a firearm for five years after that conviction.

Employees cleaning the kitchen area found the shotgun Feb. 22 inside a pillow case in a cabinet, and police were immediately contacted.

The gun was examined for fingerprints, police said.

Manaigre worked for a custodial firm contracted by the Herald to clean the building and was not an employee of the Herald. After two months or so, he was transferred from the job in early December, at the request of a Herald manager because of certain actions Manaigre took.

He has been living in his mother's mobile home for several months and has a young daughter, said his neighbors, many of whom stood on the street Wednesday night, watching the standoff.

In a handwritten note Thursday, Manaigre asked the court to not allow any reporters or news photographers in the courtroom during his hearing.

Judge Kleven denied his request because he had not given any reason why the media should be barred from his court appearances. Manaigre can ask the court again for the news media to be denied access to his hearings, Kleven said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com.

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