The standoff in West Duluth earlier this month that gripped the Twin Ports was made all the more difficult for the way the perpetrator had access to a walk-in safe in the apartment he’d barricaded himself inside.
“Ironically, he came in through the police door,” said Douglas Harris, 57, who lives in the apartment at 601 N. Central Ave., with his wife, Laura, 53.
The apartment building was once a West Duluth government center, and has stone entrances marked for fire, police and courts.
On the day Cody Lee Walker-Nelson, 30, of Duluth, allegedly unleashed mayhem across the Twin Ports, authorities said he didn't stop until he ducked under the police entrance to access the unoccupied, second-floor apartment of a friend.
The subsequent standoff Oct. 1 in the Spirit Valley neighborhood lasted more than six hours. It ended after 9 p.m., with Walker-Nelson apprehended safely, with no injuries to the citizens or authorities who encountered him that day.
Walker-Nelson faces 26 charges in Minnesota and Wisconsin, accused of stealing guns and a vehicle, fleeing and firing upon authorities, property damage, and attempted bank robbery. He remains in St. Louis County Jail with no current chance for bail.
Harris said he took part in cleaning up the apartment in the days after the standoff. He walked through with the News Tribune on Friday, showing the boarded-up windows and newfound cracks in the plaster he said were from concussions that rocked the apartment.
Even after professional cleaners had been through, there was a strong odor and remnant of tear gas in the air, and evidence of the incident throughout the apartment, including multiple holes from projectiles fired into the apartment.
“We filled two dumpsters with stuff that had been contaminated and that the tenant didn't want anymore,” Harris said, pointing out a gooey residue on the walls from when authorities blew open the apartment door.
The doors have since been replaced. Harris said the previous tenant had to move out of the apartment.
“The smell is just horrible,” Laura said.
During the walkthrough, Douglas Harris proved to be an able tour guide. He went into the safe to illustrate its roominess, and showed how the locking mechanism still worked on the heavy door. The safe featured a stamp of its maker, Diebold Safe and Lock Co., of Canton, Ohio.
“This back area of the safe is probably where the police used to keep their weapons,” Harris said, showing off the shelving that would have made sense for that purpose.
Harris thought it was likely Walker-Nelson sought refuge inside the safe as less-lethal fire was deployed around him.
Why did Harris think that? While cleaning the apartment, he said there was 2 inches of powder collected on the floor inside the safe. He showed where authorities appeared to drill a hole in order to run in a hose to deploy whatever method they used to extract Walker-Nelson.
“That’s how he did it,” Harris said, pointing at the steel husk of a safe built into the apartment. “He was right in there.”