Charges: Suspect in shooting of 5 officers west of Princeton said it ‘was his day to die’
The man accused of shooting five law enforcement officers west of Princeton on Thursday morning has been formally charged.
Benton County prosecutors filed six counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer and six counts of first-degree assault of a peace officer against 64-year-old Karl Thomas Holmberg on Friday.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office says a drug task force was executing a search warrant at Holmberg’s home shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday when officers came under fire. A standoff ensued and Holmberg was arrested after several hours of negotiations at around 10:47 a.m.
According to the sheriff’s office, three of the injured task force members were deputies from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, one was from the Princeton Police Department and the fifth is from the Elk River Police Department. The sheriff’s office said two of the Sherburne County deputies were hit in their bulletproof vests and were treated and released later Thursday, but the other three injured officers are expected to survive as well.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed that one additional officer had been released by Friday morning and the other two remained hospitalized in stable condition.
Charging documents note that one of the officers was shot in the right arm and suffered “substantial injuries;” another was hit in the chest and hip, also suffering what was considered “substantial injuries;” the final officer who wasn’t hit in a vest was shot in the hand and also had “substantial injuries.”
The documents add that a sixth officer was inside the home when gunshots were exchanged but that officer wasn’t struck.
A criminal complaint states that officers knocked and announced, “police, search warrant,” multiple times before entering the home, and a male voice was heard responding to officers. The first gunshots were fired within seconds of officers entering.
Authorities also noted that a woman — identified in the complaint as Holmberg’s wife — was inside the home at the time of the incident. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation and then released Thursday.
She later told investigators that she awoke to Holmberg telling her “they” were at their home, and she then saw a monitor that showed police through an exterior camera on the property. The woman added that Holmberg indicated to her that “it was his day to die,” and he had multiple guns laid out on the bed.
When the door was kicked in, the woman said Holmberg was repeating something to the effect of “don’t do it,” and then started blindly shooting through the closed bedroom door, using a military-style rifle. She added that Holmberg asked her to join the fight but she refused and Holmberg called her a coward.
After Holmberg was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries, which the sheriff’s office said it wasn’t sure how he received, investigators questioned him at the hospital.
Court documents state that Holmberg admitted he knew the police were at his door and heard them announce themselves and the search warrant. However, he said he didn’t believe the officers had any right to be there and told them to leave, then fired shots using a .223 rifle when they tried to enter his bedroom.
The complaint notes that authorities found “numerous” guns in the bedroom, including the rifle, a shotgun and handguns, as well as one of the officer’s guns.
As of Friday morning, Holmberg’s first court appearance hadn’t yet been set, as he hadn’t yet been booked into jail.
Each attempted murder and assault charge carries up to 20 years in prison.
“Unfortunately, it happens all too frequently,” Gretchen Gifford, Backing the Blue Line vice president, said. “In the back of your mind you wonder, ‘Do I know anybody personally involved in this time?”
Gifford explained this year, their services supporting law enforcement families in tragic circumstances have been needed far too often.
According to the BCA, 12 officers have been shot in Minnesota so far this year, compared to two on record in 2022.
“It’s staggering. It’s unfortunate. It’s scary. It’s unnerving,” Gifford said, responding to the statistics.
Gifford explained putting on the uniform comes with a risk, but there’s a common goal at the end of every shift.
“They just want to go home. Everybody just wants to be able to go home and go back to their families,” Gifford said. “I’m so thankful that everybody in this instance got to walk away and are still alive.”