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Charges: Fleeing man brandished hatchet, Bowie knife

A River Falls man had already led law enforcement on a 23-mile chase and slammed into two police cruisers before brandishing a hatchet in one hand and a knife in the other as officers closed in on him, according to charges filed Wednesday.

The suspect, Shaun P. Wurm, was arrested Sunday, Feb. 5, after being shot by officers with a Taser before being hospitalized. St. Croix County prosecutors charged him Wednesday with three felonies: first-degree recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon, battery to law enforcement with a dangerous weapon, and attempting to flee officers. He's also charged with OWI causing injury and disorderly conduct.

A St. Croix County Circuit Court judge ordered a competency evaluation for Wurm at a Wednesday hearing, where cash bail was set at $5,000.

The incident crossed into Pierce County, where Wurm was also charged with traffic violations.

St. Croix County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Scott Knudson called the incident "a rapidly evolving, dangerous situation."

"We were all concerned, not just for the safety of the person we wanted to help and for the officers," but for the public at risk during the pursuit, he said.

Especially concerning, Knudson said, was "to what length (Wurm) was going to go."

A criminal complaint states officers received an "attempt to locate" call after Wurm's ex-girlfriend found a suicide note left on a cake at her house. The warning said Wurm might be in possession of a large knife and a hatchet.

St. Croix County sheriff's deputies found a car matching Wurm's on 70th Avenue near the Flying J truck stop. Deputies unsuccessfully tried communicating with the driver. Deputy Derek Wells — concerned because of Wurm's noncompliance with orders and suspected weapons possession — aimed his gun at the car, while deputy John Shilts Jr., trained as a negotiator, attempted to talk with the driver, later identified as Wurm.

The complaint states Wurm rolled down his window, stuck his head out, yelled "pigs," in addition to announcing "things are about to get fun."

The deputies learned Wurm was on the phone with 911 dispatchers, but when the call was dispatched to Shilts, Wurm rolled the window back down and spiked the phone on the ground, breaking it into pieces.

The deputies were told that Wurm was giving them 10 minutes to back off or "things were not going to end well," the complaint states, which goes on to note that Wurm appeared to be tapping his brakes every minute in an apparent signal of his countdown.

The officers then backed up — a move Knudson said was emblematic of Crisis Intervention Team tactics that St. Croix County officers have been recently been trained in.

"Some of that thought process was ... utilized," he said.

But after the deputies backed away, Wurm allegedly drove off, heading west on 70th Avenue until he got near Warren Town Hall, when he turned around. He allegedly sped at the squad cars, forcing Wells to drive his car into a ditch to avoid a collision.

Instead, the complaint states Wurm weaved between the squad cars and turned north onto Highway 65 until reaching 80th Avenue. He then allegedly repeated the circuit — heading back to 70th Avenue, where he went west before returning east.

Wells continued to follow him and watched as Wurm slammed his brakes in the middle of the road. He then allegedly yelled at officers while holding an object in his hand.

Wurm began driving again until reaching Kinnickinnic Road and County Road N, where deputies tried boxing him in with their squad cars. He allegedly put his car in reverse and struck a squad car driven by deputy Dustin Geisness and another driven by Wells. Geisnesses later reported back pain stemming from the crash and was hospitalized.

According to the complaint, Wurm took off again, leading officers on a pursuit that entered Pierce County before re-entering St. Croix County and returning to Pierce County. Wurm's car eventually struck spike strips officers had placed in the road near Highway 29 and 650th Street in the town of Martell.

The car came to a stop at 670th Street, where Wells pinned his squad car against the driver's side door to prevent Wurm from exiting.

Wells then drew his gun on Wurm and sized up the situation.

"Shaun looked at me and displayed a large Bowie knife as well as what appeared to be a hatchet in his clenched fist," Wells wrote in the complaint. "Shaun began aggressively shaking the knives back and forth towards me."

The deputy took those gestures as an effort by Wurm to be shot by officers, the complaint states. He didn't shoot, according to the complaint, but instead kept the gun trained on Wurm as other deputies broke the windows of Wurm's car shooting him with a Taser, allowing him to be removed from the car.

The fact that everyone involved — Wurm, the officers and other motorists along the 23-mile pursuit — survived the ordeal represented the "best outcome," Knudson said.

Wurm, who officers said smelled of alcohol, was first placed under emergency detention and was taken to the state's secure mental health hospital in Winnebago.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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