Officers attempted to enter a Lincoln Park residence and arrest a domestic abuse suspect three times before he was fatally shot on the front porch of the home Friday afternoon, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Tuesday.

The BCA, which is handling the investigation of the 20-hour standoff that led to the death of David "Pogo" Joseph Wayne Conwell, released a preliminary summary and identified nine law enforcement officers who used force during the incident.

Conwell, 37, fatally shot Duluth Police Department K-9 Luna during the initial confrontation and again fired at officers when they attempted to apprehend him several hours later, according to the BCA.

He was killed at approximately 4 p.m. by members of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office Emergency Response team after pointing the gun at deputies during their third attempt to arrest him, the state agency reported.

Duluth officers responded to the residence on the 2300 block of West Fourth Street at approximately 8:30 p.m. Thursday after a third party reported a possible physical domestic assault.

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David Conwell was shot by law enforcement Friday in Duluth following a 20-hour standoff sparked by a report of domestic abuse.
David Conwell was shot by law enforcement Friday in Duluth following a 20-hour standoff sparked by a report of domestic abuse.

Officers spoke with a woman, who was safely evacuated from the house, but they "could not determine whether an assault took place," the BCA said. However, they learned that the man, Conwell, had warrants for his arrest. The agency said officers entered the house, unaware that the suspect may be armed.

While searching the residence, officers found Conwell hiding in a bedroom closet, at which point Officer Aaron Haller deployed Luna.

"As K-9 Luna was attempting to apprehend him, Conwell produced a shotgun," the BCA reported. "Conwell shot at the officers, fatally striking K-9 Luna. The other officers returned fire. They continued to fire as they retreated from the home."

The agency said there is no evidence Conwell was struck by the officers' gunfire at that point. The Duluth Police Department's Tactical Response Team, or SWAT team, was then called in and the standoff began.

"Over the next several hours, TRT members tried several electronic means of communicating with Conwell and deployed chemical irritants multiple times to try to force him to exit the apartment," the BCA news release said.

Investigators said tactical team members made the decision to enter the residence at approximately 3 a.m. Friday. As they entered a bedroom, Conwell "emerged from a closet and began shooting at them." The officers returned fire and left, but there again was no evidence that the suspect was struck.

After 10 hours of failed negotiation, the sheriff's office took over the scene, continuing to deploy chemical irritants without success. Determining that Conwell was holed up in a second-floor closet, Emergency Response Team members "removed a section of the exterior wall" outside the closet.

"Conwell jumped through the hole onto the porch and pointed his gun at the deputies," the BCA reported. "Two deputies fired their rifles and two deputies fired less lethal rounds, striking Conwell."

The agency said deputies provided emergency aid, but Conwell was quickly pronounced dead. BCA crime-scene personnel recovered the suspect's gun at the scene.

Law enforcement officers walk away from a residence where shots were fired Friday ending a standoff on the 2300 block of West Fourth Street in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Law enforcement officers walk away from a residence where shots were fired Friday ending a standoff on the 2300 block of West Fourth Street in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Warrants had been issued for Conwell's arrest in April 2020 related to an alleged probation violation in a second-degree assault case. More warrants were issued in October after he failed to appear in court.

Conwell had previously served a 21-month prison sentence for second-degree assault in 2004, when he was 20 years old.

The BCA said its investigation remains "active and ongoing." Portions involving Duluth police were captured on body camera video; the sheriff's office is not equipped with the devices.

Upon completion, the investigation will be turned over to the St. Louis County Attorney's Office for legal review of the officers' actions.

The Duluth officers who used force are:

  • Officer Dean Bauers, a member of the Tactical Response Team and nine-year veteran of policing, fired his handgun.
  • Sgt. Mike Erickson, a 26-year veteran, fired his handgun.
  • Officer Logan Goss, a five-year veteran, fired his shotgun.
  • Officer Aaron Haller, a six-year veteran, deployed K-9 Luna.
  • Officer Ian Johnson, a nine-year veteran, fired his handgun.

The St. Louis County deputies who used force are:

  • Sgt. Miles Bruggman, an eight-year veteran, who fired his rifle.
  • Sgt. Benjamin Fye, a 13-year veteran, fired his rifle.
  • Deputy Troy Nichols, a five-year veteran, fired less-lethal impact rounds.
  • Deputy Martin Thorne, a five-year veteran, fired less-lethal rounds.

"Less-lethal" rounds are projectiles such as sponge grenades that can be deployed to help subdue a suspect with less force than traditional firearms. While generally less deadly, they can still inflict serious injury.

The BCA said all officers and deputies except Nichols and Thorne have been placed on standard administrative leave by their agencies.

This story was updated at 4:56 p.m. March 2 with information about officers placed on leave. It was originally posted at 4:31 p.m. March 2.