Home » Minnesota man receives 37-year prison sentence for murdering tribal police officer – Law Officer

Minnesota man receives 37-year prison sentence for murdering tribal police officer – Law Officer

by John Hensley


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BELTRAMI COUNTY, Minn. – A Minnesota man was given a 37-year prison sentence Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the murder of a tribal police officer, which occurred in the summer of 2021. The adjudication is shorter than a life sentence desired by the officer’s family, according to reports.

Officer Ryan Bialke was 37-years-old when he was gunned down by David Brian Donnell Jr. 30, on July 27, 2021. The defendant pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder, the Star Tribune reported.

On the date of Bialke’s death, five officers with the Red Lake Nation Tribal Police Department responded to Donnell’s residence in Redby to conduct a welfare check. Upon police arrival, Donnell — who was reportedly using drugs and suicidal — left the porch area and went inside the home.

Ryan Bialke
Officer Ryan Bialke (Red Lake Nation Police Department)

Since Donnell had an active warrant for his arrest, and refused to surrender, officers forced entry into the home. Donnell opened fire on officers with a rifle, striking Bialke, who died at the scene, prosecutors said.

Donnell fired at least 22 rounds. One officer returned fire as the four remaining officers retreated into nearby woods, according to prosecutors, Fox News reported.

Donnell fled to his grandmother’s house, but surrendered to officers alongside his mother on the driveway a short time later.

Chief U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim delivered the sentence after 17 of Bialke’s friends, family members and former colleagues provided victim impact statements, the Star Tribune reported. They were reportedly unhappy with the length of the prison sentence, but declined further comment.

“No one will be satisfied by the sentence,” Tunheim predicted. “It is justified. I don’t believe in a lifetime of warehousing Mr. Donnell.”

The Red Lake Reservation is in northwest Minnesota, about 160 miles from the Canadian border, according to Fox. It covers roughly 1,260 square miles and is home to about half of the tribe’s 14,000 members.

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