5 Drug Task Force Officers and Man Injured in Gunbattle at Home in Rural Minnesota

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
October 13, 2023US News
5 Drug Task Force Officers and Man Injured in Gunbattle at Home in Rural Minnesota
Law enforcement and helicopters near where officers say has been a "critical incident" near Princeton, Minn., on Oct. 12, 2023. (Anna Haecherl/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Five drug task force officers and a 64-year-old man were injured in an exchange of gunfire Thursday as the officers served a search warrant at a property in rural Minnesota, authorities said.

Karl Thomas Holmberg, 64, was charged Friday with six counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer and six counts of first-degree assault of a peace officer. At Mr. Holmberg’s first court appearance, Judge Michael Jesse set bail at $6 million without conditions, or $3 million with standard conditions such as a ban on possessing weapons or ammunition, and set his next court date for Oct. 24.

The officers sustained injuries that were not life-threatening, Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck said Thursday at a news conference.

A criminal complaint filed Friday says officers knocked and announced, “police, search warrant” before entering the home. The first gunshots were fired seconds later. The shooting led to a nearly four-hour standoff before Mr. Holmberg was taken into custody.

It said Mr. Holmberg’s wife was inside the home, but was uninjured. The woman told investigators that when she awoke, she told her husband that officers were outside—she could see them through an exterior camera.

Mr. Holmberg had several guns laid out on a bed, the complaint stated. “The defendant indicated that it was his day to die,” according to the complaint.

As officers kicked in the door, Mr. Holmberg repeatedly said something like, “Don’t do it,” then began shooting through the closed bedroom door using a rifle, according to the complaint. She said Mr. Holmberg asked her to join him in fighting the police, but she refused. She told investigators that Mr. Holmberg called her a “coward.”

Mr. Holmberg was shot in the foot. Interviewed by police at the hospital, he said he didn’t think the officers serving the search warrant “had a right to be there and told them to leave,” according to the complaint.

The complaint said the officers found several weapons in the bedroom—handguns, a shotgun, a rifle and one of the officer’s guns—along with shell casings in the bedroom and living room. The officers at the scene had a drug search warrant, but the complaint did not state if any drugs were found.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said body-worn camera video won’t be released until the investigation has concluded.

The criminal complaint said one officer was shot in the chest and hip and remains hospitalized with “substantial injuries.” Another is still in the hospital after being shot in the arm. Three others have been released—one was shot in the hand and two were shot but protected by bullet-resistant vests. A sixth officer also was inside the home but was not struck.

The sheriff has said the officers’ names will not be released because they were working undercover.

Mr. Holmberg was already known to law enforcement in the area and Heck said he was not surprised by the shooting.

Court records show Mr. Holmberg was convicted of cocaine possession in 1986 and another felony drug possession in 2006. Most recently, in 2019, he was convicted of a petty misdemeanor for not wearing his seatbelt in a vehicle.

Mr. Holmberg does not yet have an attorney, according to the Benton County Court Administration office. The judge denied his application for a public defender, saying he didn’t qualify. His former lawyer, Todd Young, said he hasn’t spoken to Mr. Holmberg in years.

Mr. Holmberg did not immediately return a voicemail left via the jail’s phone system. Messages left for his relatives were not returned. A call to Mr. Holmberg’s home was met with a busy signal.

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