Crime, Law and Justice

Redby, Minn., man charged in killing of Red Lake Nation police officer

Updated: 6:17 p.m.

The suspect who is charged in the killing of Red Lake tribal police officer Ryan Bialke made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon. 

David Donnell Jr., 28, of Redby, Minn., appeared virtually by Zoom from the Beltrami County Jail where he is being detained. Donnell faces a murder charge in connection with Bialke’s death and four counts of assault against four other officers who responded to a call to his home early Tuesday morning. 

According to the criminal complaint, five Red Lake police officers responded to a request for a wellness check at Donnell’s residence in the Copper City area of Redby. The document says Donnell’s girlfriend expressed concerns to her mother that Donnell was suicidal and the police were called to his home. 

Before arriving on the scene, police learned that Donnell had an active tribal warrant. The complaint states that officers arrived in three squad cars and approached the house on foot, and that Donnell was standing on the outside porch. When officers attempted to have Donnell come toward them, the complaint says he went inside the residence and wouldn’t come back outside. 

Officers tried talking to Donnell through a window in an attempt to get him outside, but Donnell wouldn’t comply, according to the complaint. Officers decided to breach the front door to take Donnell into custody on the warrant. 

The complaint alleges that Donnell shot Bialke when the officer kicked down the front door. It says gunfire continued from inside the house toward the other four officers on the property. At one point, one officer returned fire. Officers then retreated into the woods to escape the gunfire. 

A witness saw Donnell traveling on foot west from the scene through the trees, while holding a rifle. Red Lake police soon received a call from a neighbor, who said Donnell had just arrived at her house, and that she'd just taken a firearm away from him.

Police took Donnell into custody without further incident after arriving at his neighbor’s house. The complaint said Donnell apologized while being taken into custody and that he told his neighbor that “I f----- up.”

The complaint states that Donnell admitted that he knew the people he was shooting at were Red Lake tribal police officers and that he told police he knew he had an outstanding warrant and did not want to be arrested. 

From searching Donnell’s house, police say they recovered several fired shell casings and identified multiple bullet holes throughout the front of the residence, and bullet holes were found in the marked Red Lake tribal police squad car. 

Bialke died from his injuries on the scene. He served with Red Lake tribal police for six years and he leaves behind a wife and four children. 

Donnell’s next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 3 at 10:30 a.m. 

The Red Lake Reservation is in northwest Minnesota, about 160 miles from the Canadian border and covers about 1,260 square miles. It is home to about half of the tribe’s 14,000 members. The four communities on the reservation are Little Rock, Ponemah, Red Lake and Redby. 

Correction (July 28, 2021): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the relationship between David Donnell Jr. and his neighbor who called police after the suspect arrived at her house.