For those who saw footage of the shooting incident on Monday, Jan. 23 in Winsted, many would have thought the incident happened in Wright County given the number of Wright County Sheriff’s Office vehicles and personnel on the scene. It wasn’t a coincidence. When McLeod County asked for assistance after two officers had been shot and a standoff was underway, help was on the way from Wright County within minutes with more to follow within an hour.
“When that call went out for mutual aid, we had two or three squads and a sergeant heading down to Winsted immediately,” Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said. “That’s what we do. Others have done it for us and we do it for others.”
Part of the coordinated response was the byproduct of an idea WCSO Sergeant Josh Hinton had following the two-day standoff last July in St. Michael that brought numerous outside agencies into Wright County to assist in the apprehension of the suspect and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“After our St. Michael incident last summer that turned out to be a 48-hour standoff, we had a lot of SWAT teams up here that were assisting us with manpower and equipment,” Deringer said. “Josh Hinton came up with the idea of doing more to form these relationships ahead of something really bad happening. It’s only a matter of time that it’s going to hit every county in the state. It’s just a matter of when. Seeing as we are each other’s neighbors, it made sense to start getting to know these people on a first-name basis.”
Following the St. Michael incident, Hinton reached out to every team leader in other law enforcement agencies in the area and set up a meet-and-greet at the Sheriff’s Office Training Center in Maple Lake, asking all of them to send representatives. Team leaders from all the SWAT teams in the area attended and it began to forge the relationships between the agencies that made the deployment of Wright County personnel and equipment snap into action immediately to render mutual aid after the call for help in Winsted was issued.
Before Deringer received an official request call from McLeod County Sheriff Tim Langenfeld asking for mutual aid, Wright County Sheriff staff were already loading vehicles and preparing its Command Center to head to the scene.
Because Wright County had much more in the way of manpower and technology, the McLeod County Sheriff's Office turned tactical command over to Deringer and his staff until the issue was resolved.
“One of the first things I did was say that we needed to get a search warrant to enter that property as soon as possible,” Deringer said. “That was something we learned from the St. Michael incident regarding a standoff that could last for many hours. We ended up writing up requests for four or five different search warrants in the St. Michael case to cover different contingencies as circumstances changed. We were able to combine all those elements into one search warrant for the Winsted case.”
Key to the operation was utilizing a robot and a drone camera from the WCSO that could search the property and seek out the suspect. The robot could open doors and climb stairs while the drone gave officers a 360-degree view of what happening as each room of the house was methodically searched and cleared. The suspect was located within a half hour of the search warrant being executed and the robot and drone camera were able to confirm the suspect was dead without anyone entering the house and potentially risking their lives in the process.
The Winsted incident was an example of the extent to which law enforcement provides mutual aid at a time of crisis. Following the bombing and shooting at the Allina Crossroads Clinic in Buffalo two years ago and in the 48-hour standoff in St. Michael last summer, the presence of other agencies answering the call was significant. Deringer was grateful for the outpouring of assistance that came when there were crises on his turf and he said he was happy to deliver the assistance he and his office provided McLeod County in its own life-threatening incident.
“There’s a motto we have in the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association that goes, ‘No sheriff stands alone,’” Deringer said. “There has always been the spirit that if another agency is in need that others do whatever is in their power to help. We had other agencies flood into Wright County after the Allina and St. Michael incidents. We did the same for McLeod County because we all live by that motto.”