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Mahnomen standoff suspects make first court appearance; 50 officers pack courtroom

Thomas Lee Fairbanks is led into the Mahnomen County Courtroom Friday morning for his first court appearance Wednesday in the shooting of Mahnomen County deputy Christopher Dewey. Fairbanks had 22 charges brought against him, including attempted first-degree and attempted second-degree murder. Forum Communications Photo/Brian Basham

MAHNOMEN - Two men involved in a standoff that left one Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy critically wounded Wednesday made their first appearance in Mahnomen County District Court today.

Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 32, was charged with 22 counts, including two counts of first- and second-degree attempted murder charges for shooting the deputy, as well as various counts of assault for firing shots at other law enforcement agents during the standoff. The other charges are: two counts of felon in possession of a firearm; 12 counts of first-degree assault against peace officers; one count of attempted theft of a motor vehicle; four counts of reckless use of a dangerous instrument; and one count of failure to render assistance.

Fairbanks is alleged to have shot Deputy Christopher Dewey, 26, who is still in critical condition but stable at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital. Dewey was shot in the head and the abdomen.

Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, was charged with 17 counts, ranging from aiding the assaults, being in contempt of court and being a felon in possession of a firearm.Specifically, the charges against Vernier are: two counts of felon in possession of a firearm; 12 counts of first-degree assault against peace officers; one count of attempted theft of a motor vehicle' one count of failure to render assistance; anhd one count of misdemeanor criminal contempt.

Vernier told police that he was not the one to shoot Dewey.

Judge Michael Kraker set bail at $1 million for Fairbanks and $500,000 for Vernier. Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman said in a press release that Vernier also had his condition of release revoked on three other criminal charges that were pending for sentencing March 4.

Fairbanks and Vernier are scheduled to make their next court appearances at 9 a.m. Feb. 26.

The partner of the wounded Mahnomen County deputy is on paid administrative leave, pending the investigation of Wednesday's shooting and nearly nine-hour long standoff here.

Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier said Deputy Chad Peterson was placed on leave after firing one shot at two suspects. One of the men shot and critically wounded Deputy Christopher Dewey.

After arriving at the scene where Dewey was shot in a residential neighborhood west of the Mahnomen County Courthouse, Peterson fired one shot at Thomas Lee Fairbanks and Daniel Kurt Vernier. Peterson injured Fairbanks with the shot, although the bullet didn't pierce his body. He was treated and released from the Mahnomen Health Center, but could still be seen moving slowly at his first court appearance earlier today.

Sheriff Krier said it's standard procedure to place a deputy on leave after they've been involved in a shooting.

Krier and Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman spoke at an 11 a.m. news conference this morning in Mahnomen, about an hour after Fairbanks and Vernier made their first appearance in court.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting of Dewey and Peterson's shooting of Fairbanks.

Authorities at the news conference praised Deputy Peterson for his quick actions at the scene. He prevented the two suspects from getting away in Dewey's patrol car and held them at bay in the mobile home, which is owned by Fairbanks.

Authorities also said they retrieved a hand gun believed to be the one used to shoot Dewey when Vernier surrendered to police about 9 a.m. Wednesday. They said he brought the weapon out with him when he exited the home.

Krier said some of details hadn't been released to the public because of the ongoing BCA investigation.

About 80 people packed the courtroom at the Mahnomen County Courthouse for a 9:30 a.m. hearing, with about 50 law enforcement officers attending, as well as about a dozen family members of the wounded deputy.

The Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department announced Friday that they will tie blue ribbons to the antennas of their squad cars to show support of Dewey and his family. They encouraged the public to do so as well.

A benefit fund has been set up to aid Dewey's family. Donations may be sent to: First National Bank of Mahnomen, c/o Deputy Chris Dewey, P.O. Box 378, 103 N. Main St., Mahnomen, MN 56557. For more information, call 218-935-5251.

Wednesday's events began when Dewey was about to wrap up his shift early that morning when he found a pickup that police had been seeking.

The discovery later ended with him lying on a driveway, critically wounded from two gunshot wounds. That shooting triggered the standoff with police that ended peacefully when Fairbanks surrendered a few minutes after 4 p.m. Vernier had surrendered to authorities about 9 a.m. Wednesday.