Red Lake man admits to killing tribal police officer

David Donnell Jr. faces life in prison for the death of Red Lake Tribal Police Officer Ryan Bialke.

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MINNEAPOLIS — A Red Lake man has admitted to fatally shooting a tribal police officer last year.

David Brian Donnell Jr., 29, pleaded guilty on Friday, April 1, in Minnesota’s U.S. District Court to a second-degree murder charge. He could be sentenced to the maximum penalty of life in prison.

Donnell had faced first-degree murder charge, which is punishable by the death penalty, and a litany of other counts in connection to the July 27 shooting at his Redby, Minnesota, home. Five Red Lake Tribal Police Department officers responded to Donnell’s home for a welfare check, according to a news release.

Donnell, who had a tribal warrant out for his arrest, retreated into his home against police orders, and officers “breached the door,” the release said. That’s when Donnell opened fire, hitting Officer Ryan Bialke, the release said.

One officer returned fire as police retreated into the woods, the release said. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota said Donnell fired 22 rounds.


The 37-year-old Bialke died at the scene. Donnell fled but was arrested nearby.

It's unclear if the other charges will be dismissed, but they typically are when a plea agreement is reached.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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