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Police shoot suspect

DICKINSON - Two Dickinson men remain hospitalized following a shooting at 582 First Ave. S.W. in Dickinson early Tuesday morning.

Dickinson Police Department officers responding to a call from Patricia Ann Ewoniuk, 53, shot Joel Henry Wetzel, 59, at approximately 1:32 a.m. Tuesday.

"The officers responded very professionally and placed themselves appropriately to provide proper coverage around the residence," Assistant Chief of Police Capt. Stewart Stenberg said. "So, when the threat was recognized, they responded accordingly and resolved the situation."

The police reported Wetzel had broken into Ewoniuk's home and struck Arnold Sickler, 56, Ewoniuk's roommate, in the leg with a bullet fragment when Wetzel shot through a door in the home.

Upon arrival on the scene officers heard a shot from behind the house. The confronted Wetzel who refused to drop his weapon raised his firearm and pointed it at the officer. A second officer at the scene, recognized the threat and discharged his shotgun, striking Wetzel in the upper right side torso.

Several bullet casings were found in the yard following the incident.

Sickler and Wetzel are currently hospitalized. Sickler is hospitalized at Dickinson's St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center and is in stable condition. Wetzel, transported by ambulance to St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, is currently in the Intensive Care Unit and his status was unknown at press time.

Wetzel is charged with a Class B felony burglary charge and a Class C felony reckless endangerment charge and will be placed into police custody following his release from the hospital. He has a prior felony conviction for reckless manslaughter in Colorado in 1993.

A motive for the attack is not known at this time, said Stenberg.

"We know that they knew each other and knew of each other and had associated in the past," Stenberg said. "But just how strong that friendship was or how long it's existed I can't tell you."

An investigation is ongoing and several search warrants have been issued, completed and are pending.

"Processing these scenes and gathering evidence, as well as actually acquiring the search warrants and completing the affidavits, is a time consuming event," Dickinson Police Department detective Joe Cianni said.

Dickinson Police Department policy states the names of the officers involved in the incident will not be released until a later date, following an investigation into the incident by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Stark County Sheriff's Department.

Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy wouldn't comment on the investigation into how the officers conducted themselves during the incident, but said he was confident everything was done according to policy.

"Any time an officer uses deadly force, which includes a handgun, the department requests that the individual is provided with forms of counseling and so on and so forth," Stenberg said. "As well, the investigation that we're discussing here today would take place to ensure that all guidelines and policies of the agency are followed."

Stenberg cannot remember the last time there was an officer-involved shooting in Dickinson, but gathered it had to have been over three decades following conversations with other long-time officers in the department.

"I think in any given situation, the potential exists for you know, the officer is exposing themselves to danger, whether it might be a traffic stop, whether it might be a domestic violence situation," Stenberg said. "In this particular situation, we did have the advantage in that the caller told us that this individual had a gun. We had some knowledge of his location upon arrival."