Manhunt leads to arrests: One suspect remains on the lam after Turtle River gunfire report
A citizen’s tip Tuesday helped Beltrami County deputies arrest two men after a 12-hour manhunt, but the search for another suspect continues.
About 35 law enforcement officers searched for suspects after receiving a call about automatic gunfire in Turtle River late Monday.
Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Tuesday’s tip proved valuable, leading deputies to men walking alongside a road near Buena Vista Ski Area.
“We couldn’t do this without people giving us calls and tips,” Sheriff Phil Hodapp said, noting one tip directly led to the arrest of Christopher Lee Rossbach, 24, and Winfield William White, 22, both of Ponemah.
“We were nearby and able to catch them,” he said, adding several residents in the area kept law enforcement informed about barking dogs and any suspicious activity. “Things went as well as they could. They know where we are at, we don’t know where they are at.”
The sheriff said they’re still searching for Robert Wayne Parker Jr., 23, of Bemidji. Parker was able to elude officers, and is believed to have received a ride away from the search area about 7:30 a.m.
Parker is believed to be on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, authorities said.
Deputies and officers combed a 2-square-mile area near the ski area and several homeowners received calls warning them to lock their doors and vehicles. Hodapp said his primary concern was the suspects getting into someone’s home or stealing a car to flee the area.
“Obviously, they were hiding out,” said Beryl Wernberg, Beltrami County’s 911 supervisor. “Our guys were going door to door… We had a lot of people out there and a lot of people looking.”
Minnesota State Patrol and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection used helicopters and thermal imaging equipment to survey a nearly 10- mile circumference from where the suspects ditched a vehicle after a pursuit by Beltrami County sheriff’s deputies.
According to the sheriff’s office:
Dispatchers received a call at 11:58 p.m. Monday about gunfire near downtown Turtle River. Deputies arrived at a home, suspected to be the origin of the gunfire, to investigate.
No one answered the door to the home but a car sped from the scene, prompting a pursuit that ended about 11 miles north of Bemidji on Irvine Avenue North.
The driver of the fleeing vehicle ran over stop sticks, which had been deployed by a State Patrol trooper on Irvine Avenue, and eventually abandoned it on a short wooden trail south of Buena Vista Ski Area.
Four suspects fled the car, and deputies arrested 20-year-old Jessica Ann Johnson, 20, unknown address, at the scene. Authorities found an AK-47-style assault rifle and two 30-round magazines in the car.
Deputies reported one suspect appeared to be armed with a pistol. Authorities, including officers from the Headwaters SWAT team, Paul Bunyan Task Force, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Bemidji and Red Lake police departments, aided in the search. Officers searched residences and outbuildings in the area, and several residents were called via telephone.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Office said a resident called at 7:55 a.m. to report two men approached a home on Irvine Avenue and asked to use the phone. The resident denied the request and the men ran from the yard.
At 12:17 p.m., a citizen called to report two men walking north on Irvine Avenue, about three miles north of where the car was abandoned. Hodapp said deputies responded and arrested Rossbach and White, who were booked into jail, a few minutes later.
Johnson posted bond and is no longer in the Beltrami County Jail.
“It has been a long day,” Hodapp said late Tuesday afternoon. The sheriff said he was “happy the whole event happened without anybody getting hurt.”
Hodapp urged anyone with information about Parker’s whereabouts to call the Sheriff’s Office at (218) 333-9111.