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West Fargo police end hotel standoff peacefully with man who fired at officers

WEST FARGO--An armed man holed up in a West Fargo hotel fired at police officers, authorities say, before being arrested without incident Friday. The incident at the Rodeway Inn at 731 Main Ave. W. forced the evacuation of about two dozen guests ...

WEST FARGO--An armed man holed up in a West Fargo hotel fired at police officers, authorities say, before being arrested without incident Friday.

The incident at the Rodeway Inn at 731 Main Ave. W. forced the evacuation of about two dozen guests and resulted in about a four-hour standoff with a man police identified as Jan-michel Wangstad, 37. He is being charged with felony possession of a firearm and two counts of attempted murder, as well as a charged of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, for which he was wanted on a warrant.

No officers had to fire any shots during the incident, and the man eventually surrendered without incident, West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan said.

The incident started when a person walking through the Rodeway's parking lot saw a man inside a hotel room with a handgun at about 2 p.m., Reitan said.

"When officers arrived and attempted to contact the individual in the motel, the individual shot at officers," Reitan said. "The officers moved back and began evacuating the motel and securing the area."

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The chief said he didn't know how many shots were fired, adding that two separate incidents of rounds were fired by the individual inside.

The West Fargo officers weren't hit and retreated without returning fire. Numerous officers helped set up a perimeter around the building.

Reitan said gunfire damaged a water pipe and the city had to shut off water service to residences in about a two-block area.

Negotiators with the Red River Valley SWAT Team opened up a dialogue with the suspected gunman, who police said was alone in the room, Reitan said, adding that police don't believe he is from the Fargo-Moorhead area and aren't sure if he was a hotel guest.
The incident was the second time in the past few months metro area police officers were shot at.

In February, Fargo police Officer Jason Moszer was shot and died after responding to a domestic violence call that led to a standoff in Fargo.

"It's always a concern when there's a report of a person with a firearm, as to what their intent is," Reitan said. "Certainly, the murder of Officer Moszer was something that played in my mind and I'm sure it did in everyone else's who responded to the scene."

Reitan said he can't recall the last time officers from his department came under fire, but he said it hasn't happened in at least the past few months.

The hotel was evacuated, and about 20 to 25 guests were taken to Veterans Memorial Arena at West Fargo High School, Reitan said. They were then aided by Red Cross in finding temporary housing.

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Police closed Main Avenue for about a mile during the standoff, from Sheyenne Street to the fairgrounds road, Reitan said. Authorities urged the public to stay away from the area.

Guests at the hotel, which offers weekly or monthly rates, said they were called by the hotel manager or rousted by a fire alarm. Guests were escorted first to the lobby area and police later directed them to the pool area, where they were told to wait and stay away from any windows until they could be evacuated.

At West Fargo High School, they gathered in a wrestling practice room near the gymnasium. Adults rested on wrestling cushions stacked by a wall while children played, some bouncing balls. The Red Cross distributed snacks and stuffed animal toys while the adults waited for the OK to return once the standoff ended.

Chance Powers and Katie Smith were putting their 2-week-old son down for a nap when they heard the alarm.

"We thought it was a fire," Powers said. "Next thing there were like 800 cops."

Smith saw a rifle barrel. Luckily, the gun was held by a police officer. Still, it was a jolt. "I got scared," she said. "I panicked. They said go back upstairs."

The shepherding of guests to the lobby area and pool and later evacuation was "pretty orderly," Smith said.

Powers and Smith moved to the metro area a few weeks ago from Vancouver, Wash., in search of work. Powers found a job managing a local fast-food restaurant.

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Leroy Maxwell was sleeping--it was a day off from work--when he heard a noise.

"I heard some shots," he said." That's what woke me up. I saw nothing but police."

The motel manager came to his room and told Maxwell that he had to evacuate. He has been staying at the Rodeway for four months. "We've never had problems before," he said.

Darlene Parks and her two small children were in their room when the manager called, then came to escort them to the lobby.

"It was scary," she said. "My kids were scared," especially when the fire alarm sounded while they were waiting in the lobby area.

Her mother-in-law was staying in a room downstairs, near where the incident apparently took place, but was away shopping at the time, Parks said.

The Parks are in the area temporarily while her husband is working building tanks.

"We're not ready for this," she said.

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
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