Man charged in killing of Red Lake Nation officer; family shares memories |

Man charged in killing of Red Lake Nation officer; family shares memories

Updated: July 28, 2021 07:31 PM
Created: July 28, 2021 05:50 PM

Federal charges have been filed in connection with the death of Red Lake Tribal Police Officer Ryan Bialke.

A criminal complaint shows David Brian Donnell Jr., is charged with four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of second-degree murder in Bialke's death.

On Tuesday, Red Lake Tribal police went to conduct a welfare check on Donnell at his home in the Copper City area of Redby. The complaint states the woman Donnell is reportedly in a relationship with called her mother that morning, said Donnell was suicidal and asked her to call the police.

Five officers, including Bialke, responded to Donnell's home and learned that he had an active tribal warrant. When they arrived, the officers found Donnell standing outside on a porch. After officers asked him to walk off the porch, toward them, Donnell refused and instead went in his home and refused to come out, the complaint states.

Eventually, the officers decided to breach the door and take Donnell into custody on his outstanding warrant, but when Bialke kicked in the front door, gunfire erupted from inside the home in the officers' direction, the complaint states.

Bialke was hit, and one officer returned fire before the officers retreated into the woods to escape the continued gunfire. The complaint states Bialke died at the scene.

Soon after, a witness reported seeing Donnell walking through the woods while holding a rifle. Officers responded to the nearby home that Donnell was reportedly at and took him into custody without further incident. The complaint states Donnell apologized while he was arrested, saying, "I (expletive) up."

Officers also found the gun inside the home where he was arrested.

The complaint states Donnell later told officers he fired at them because he knew of his outstanding warrant and didn't want to be arrested. Investigators later searched his home and found several fire shell casings and bullet holes in the home and in a police squad car.

Donnell was booked at Beltrami County Jail and made an initial court appearance on Wednesday. His next court appearance is set for Aug. 3.

Remembering Bialke

Family members say Bialke, 37, had a huge heart and was someone you could always count on. His uncle said he had a passion to help and that's why he became a police officer.

"He had a very soft heart, very sympathetic, very giving, always giving, that was the thing about him," Kurt Sjelin shared.

Sjelin says his nephew waffled over coming home to Buffalo to take a job in law enforcement but his drive to right the wrong kept him with the Red Lake Nation Police Department for six years.

"He had a passion for injustice toward children, so his heart was just in it — he couldn't leave it. He was compassionate about it and didn't want to give that up," Sjelin recalled.

Bialke leaves behind a wife and four children — ages 2, 6, and twin boys who are 12.

"I know he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that's what gives me hope, but for what he left behind, that's, that's what I grieve," his uncle said.

Sjelin says his nephew wasn't afraid of anything, and that's how he lived his life. Whether it was attempting to drive tractors on the farm as a toddler or the two of them working together and recently cutting down a tree hanging over the shed on the farm. Sjelin says they are memories that will be treasured.

"The first thing I did yesterday when I went to the farm was I went to that tree and I took a picture of it because it's the last memory of him, you know, of me and him, together," Sjelin said, holding back tears.

Bialke's body was escorted home Wednesday evening by law enforcement. His family is in Bemidji planning his funeral, which is expected to be held next week.

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