Iron Range man killed by trooper had fired at wife's house
DULUTH - Authorities said the Iron Range man who was killed in a shootout with a Minnesota State Patrol trooper on Saturday night had minutes earlier fired shots from a shotgun and rifle into the home where his estranged wife and a 1-year-old and...
DULUTH - Authorities said the Iron Range man who was killed in a shootout with a Minnesota State Patrol trooper on Saturday night had minutes earlier fired shots from a shotgun and rifle into the home where his estranged wife and a 1-year-old and 4-year-old child were living.
The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office on Monday identified the dead man as Donnie Joe Lira, 66, of Cherry Township. Lira had prior convictions for fifth-degree assault in 1996 and for violating orders for protection in 1997 and 2000.
St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips said the home at 9746 E. Hayes Road in Cherry Township where Lira's wife, Marie, lived "was under attack" about 11 p.m. Saturday.
Phillips said the couple were recently separated and Marie Lira moved about a mile away. When the suspect showed up at his wife's home, she locked herself and the 4-year-old into an upstairs bathroom. The 1-year-old was in another room.
Phillips said reports indicated that a window was taken out and shots were fired at the front door. No one in the home was injured. Phillips said it was unclear if the children in the home were the children of the suspect. According to court records, Donnie Lira was divorced from another woman in 2000.
"We believe over the course of the short time that he was there, he fired off both the shotgun and the rifle," Phillips said. "She frantically calls 911 saying her estranged husband is outside shooting at the front of the house. With dispatch on the line, they hear another round being fired."
Phillips said Marie Lira reported Donnie Lira pounding on the front door, but when he couldn't get in, he drove away. His wife reported that he was driving a silver Chevrolet Cavalier.
Numerous law enforcement agencies responded, Phillips said. A State Patrol trooper located the suspect driving south on County Highway 25.
"He initiated a traffic stop," said Capt. Murray Herrboldt, supervisor of the Virginia District of the State Patrol. "The suspect vehicle pulled into his driveway and the trooper followed with his lights on. ... The trooper gave very clear verbal commands to the suspect. The suspect didn't comply. He exited the vehicle with a firearm and shots were exchanged between the trooper and the suspect."
Lira was transported to the hospital, where he later died. The trooper was not injured.
Herrboldt said the trooper is a seven-year veteran of the patrol. He has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard operating procedure for an officer-related shooting. Herrboldt said the trooper's name will be released later this week after the trooper has time to complete his final report.
Authorities weren't saying who fired first or how many shots were fired until the investigation by the sheriff's office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is completed.
The entire incident lasted 11 minutes, Phillips said.
"The 911 communications folks did an outstanding job," he said. "The incident was totally in progress when she (Marie Lira) called and they even heard the shots in the background. She was utterly mortified. Our dispatchers kept a lid on things with their calm demeanor, and our officers were very grateful for the State Patrol and their response in backing up our guys on this call."
The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.