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West Fargo man shot by Becker County officers has struggled for decades to overcome addictions, mother says

Dean Robert Minnerath, 55, of West Fargo, was shot and wounded by Becker County sheriff's officers on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, near Audubon, Minn. Special to The Forum

WEST FARGO, N.D.—Dean Robert Minnerath, a 55-year-old West Fargo man shot by Becker County sheriff's officers on Thursday night, has a long history of drug and alcohol problems, as well as illegal activity fueled by his addictions.

He's been in and out of prison and jail — for meth and marijuana, for repeatedly driving under the influence, but also for assault, making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer, court records show.

All but one of his felony arrests have occurred in Minnesota. His mother, Judy Kenny, said on Monday, Oct. 2, that he was less inclined to get in trouble if he could resist the temptation to return to the state where he grew up.

"If he stayed out of Minnesota, he stayed out of trouble," she said. "I think it was the crowd he rode with. He considers himself a biker. Every time he seems to go back there, they do drugs and get drunk, and get in trouble."

Minnerath was shot Thursday night, Sept. 28, near Audubon, Minn., after leading police on a chase that reached speeds over 95 mph. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, two Becker County sheriff's officers, Sgt. Dan May and Deputy Daran Borth, responded about 7:25 p.m. to a report of someone threatening to kill people in Cormorant Township.

Deputies spotted Minnerath driving north on County Road 5 and tried to pull him over, but he sped away. At U.S. Highway 10, he turned east and the Minnesota State Patrol joined the pursuit. The chase ended just east of Audubon after the State Patrol punctured his tires by placing spikes on the road.

According to the BCA, Minnerath immediately got out of his vehicle "brandishing a rifle toward the deputies." Both deputies fired their guns, striking Minnerath. He was taken by ambulance to the Detroit Lakes airport and was flown by helicopter to Essentia Health in Fargo.

Law enforcement officials have not provided Minnerath's condition, and an Essentia official said on Monday the hospital has no patient by that name in its directory. That can mean a patient requested not to be listed in the directory, but can also mean that they have been discharged or have died.

Minnerath's mother, who lives in Mississippi, insisted on Monday that her son is still at Essentia and that he was in a coma on Sunday, but that could not be confirmed.

"They won't tell us anything," Kenny said.

'Doing well for themselves'

Kenny said Minnerath had recently separated from his wife, Shelly. They had met in treatment and had been married for about five years. They lived in West Fargo. He worked as a farm manager, and, in winter months, as a welder.

"They were doing well for themselves," she said. "He was working. She had a job. They had a new truck, a motor home. I don't know what set him off but something did. He started to drink again. They had separated because of that."

Kenny said Minnerath's wife talked to a woman who was with him when he was shot. The BCA said a passenger in the car was questioned and released. According to her, they'd gone to a bar ("I think it was a biker bar," Kenny said), a disagreement broke out, and then Minnerath left in his car with the woman. That's when he encountered police.

Minnerath had reasons to fear an encounter with police if he'd been drinking in a bar or possessed a gun. Under the terms of a January 2017 controlled substance conviction, he was forbidden from drinking or using controlled substances, entering bars or liquor stores, or having contact with anybody while they are consuming alcohol or drugs. He was also under a lifetime ban from using or possessing a gun.

The woman who was with Minnerath when he was shot told his wife that he did not have a gun, which contradicts the police account of what happened.

Sgt. May and Deputy Borth, the two officers who fired at him, have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard whenever officers fire a weapon. Neither were injured. May has 14 years of law enforcement experience and has been with the Becker County Sheriff's Office since 2014. Borth has been in law enforcement for five years, including three years with Becker County.

None of the officers involved were wearing body cameras. However, the BCA said squad car cameras may have captured portions of the incident. The BCA is still investigating what happened.

Minnerath's mother said he has three children and two grandchildren. She thought he had been married four times, but a woman to whom he had been married prior to Shelly said he had been married once before her.

That woman, Audrey Minnerath, of Moorhead, said she had been married to him from 2008 to 2012. She met him while he was on a work release program from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, where he had been sentenced to eight years for a controlled substance conviction for meth.

Following his release, they went to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous together, but she said he hurt his back on a welding job in Detroit Lakes in about 2009 and the doctors prescribed pain medications, which reignited his addictive behavior. She said she had to call the police on him several times for domestic violence. Eventually, she kicked him out.

"I went through hell with him," she said. "I could never trust him. I hoped and prayed he would get his life together because he was a very loving and kind person when he was clean."

Put up for adoption

Kenny gave birth to Minnerath when she was 17 and was forced by her parents to give him up for adoption. She reconnected with him when he turned 21, and she was permitted to contact him. He was angry at her initially. "He hated my guts because I abandoned him," she said.

She told him what actually happened, and they have become close over the years. In fact, she said, he was supposed to visit her in Mississippi last week, but couldn't do that because he was in a motorcycle crash. Minnerath often confided in her about his troubles with drugs and alcohol.

Minnerath was adopted by cousins and grew up on a farm in Cold Spring, Minn., near St. Cloud. He started drinking when he was in ninth grade, according to his mother, and soon got into more serious trouble. At age 16, she said, he was convicted of armed robbery and sent to a juvenile detention facility.

Kenny said Minnerath has struggled to stay clean and out of jail ever since. She said alcoholism runs in his family on both his mother and father's side.

"I know he tried," she said. "He knew he had to straighten out. He couldn't do it. It just had a hold on him. It does that to some people. He was a really different person when he didn't drink or do drugs. He was a good man, a loving husband and dad. The alcohol changed him."

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