12/26/2012 1:52:00 PM Canton man expected to face charges for Preston shooting Fillmore Central schools, other locations in area put into lockdown as precaution during incident
By Melissa Vander Plas
Charges were expected to be filed Monday in Fillmore County District Court against a 39-year-old Canton man who allegedly shot a 49-year-old Preston woman on Friday afternoon. This incident led to Fillmore Central schools and other area businesses and care facilities to go into lockdown as a precaution when the suspect fled the initial crime scene and his whereabouts were unknown for about 40 minutes, explained Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen.
The victim of the shooting was taken to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester with an apparent gunshot wound to her neck. She underwent surgery and her condition was improving as of Sunday evening. She is expected to make a full recovery. The shooting was witnessed by another person in the home who was able to also identify the shooter when officers responded to the 9-1-1 call.
Jensen said the woman was shot inside a residence on St. Anthony Street North in Preston at approximately 12:20 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21. At approximately 1 p.m. the suspect was spotted by a Rushford officer eastbound on Highway 16 between Whalan and Peterson. The Rushford officer pursued the suspect into Winona County at speeds up to 90 miles per hour where Winona County, Houston County and Minnesota State Troopers assisted. The suspect stopped east of Wilson in Winona County, apparently having run out of gas and was taken into custody after a 30-minute standoff.
The sheriff said officers could see a shotgun in the suspect's vehicle. Authorities also said the man was suicidal and armed with a 9 mm handgun.
A little after 2 p.m. the man got out of the vehicle, unarmed with his hands up, and followed law enforcement to walk backwards toward them, according to Winona County Deputy Ron Ganrude. He was then handcuffed and taken into custody.
Jensen praised his officers, as well as the other law enforcement personnel who responded as he told John Weiss of the Post Bulletin in Rochester, "This was one of those high-risk situations" because no one knew if he was armed or what he would do, he said.
The suspect was held in jail over the weekend and was expected to be in court on Monday.
Schools, businesses take precautions
During the 40 minutes when the suspect's location was unknown, Fillmore Central Schools, local banks and care facilities went into lockdown.
Jensen said that although officers knew who the suspect was, there were extra precautions taken during that time when his whereabouts were unknown.
While Superintendent Richard Keith was out of the district at the time of the incident, he complimented the administrators at both school buildings, Principal Heath Olstad and Dean of Students Chris Mensink for taking control of the situation and securing the buildings. He said, "Heath and Chris took good care of the situation. I kept in touch with Heath and from a distance it sounded like the staff did a good job working with the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office."
The students were to have been dismissed for the holiday at 1:30 on Friday, but were kept a bit longer until the suspect was in custody. Parents were notified by an automated messaging service when the school went into lockdown. Fillmore County deputies were also stationed at both buildings as a precaution.
Parent Sue Bahler said the school did an "awesome job keeping parents updated between emails, text messages, automatic calls to home and cell. The school made it clear in all the messages (that the shooter was not at the school) so I was not in any panic at all. I was pleased how it was handled."
The Preston Police Department, Fillmore County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are involved in the ongoing investigation.