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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Red Lake Man Sentenced to 37 Years in Prison for the Murder of a Red Lake Tribal Police Officer

BEMIDJI, Minn. – A Red Lake man has been sentenced to 37 years in prison for fatally shooting a Red Lake Tribal Police Officer, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.

“The tragic and violent events of July 27, 2021, that claimed the life of Officer Ryan Bialke brought an incalculable loss to his family and to his community,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “Although the 37-year sentence handed down today represents justice under the law, the harm can never be undone. We honor the memory of Officer Bialke and commend the officers of the Red Lake Tribal Police Department for their continued courage and commitment in serving their community.”

“When David Brian Donnell opened fire at officers on July 27, 2021, our community lost a husband, a father, a son, and a hero,” said Alvin M. Winston, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis Division. Officer Bialke paid the ultimate price for his dedication to public safety, and today's sentence is a testament to the tireless efforts of our state and local partners and the Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force to ensure that violent criminals are held accountable for their heinous crimes. We are unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding our indigenous communities with our tribal partners, and our thoughts are with Officer Bialke's family and colleagues as they heal from this tragedy.”

According to court documents, on July 27, 2021, officers with the Red Lake Tribal Police Department (“RLTPD”) responded to a call to conduct a welfare check on David Brian Donnell, Jr., 30, at his residence in Redby, Minnesota. Five RLTPD officers responded to Donnell’s residence. Upon arrival, the officers found Donnell standing outside on the porch and attempted to have him walk towards the officers, but Donnell instead went inside the residence. Because Donnell had an active tribal warrant and was refusing to comply, the officers made the decision to breach the door. As soon as the door was breached, Donnell opened fire on the officers. Officer Ryan Bialke was immediately struck by gunfire and fell. Donnell continued shooting, firing several rounds from an Izhmash Saiga 7.62 caliber rifle at the four other officers on the scene. One RLTPD officer returned fire to allow the officers to escape into the woods. Donnell continued firing at the officers as they fled into the woods. Donnell fired at least 22 shots at Officer Bialke and the four other RLTPD officers. Officer Bialke succumbed to his injuries and died on the scene. Donnell then fled the scene, taking the rifle with him. Shortly thereafter, officers arrested Donnell at a nearby residence.

Donnell, who pleaded guilty on April 1, 2022, to one count of murder in the second degree, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court by Judge John R. Tunheim. During the hearing, Judge Tunheim stated that the 37-year sentence was “justified by a senseless crime,” and extended condolences to the family of Officer Bialke, who gave his life in the line of duty, “he was a fine man, I wish I had known him.”

This case was the result of an investigation conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Police Department, the FBI Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda A. Williams and Joseph S. Teirab prosecuted the case.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Indian Country Law and Justice
Component(s): 
Updated January 10, 2023