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Two men charged in Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy shooting

MAHNOMEN, Minn. - Two men involved in a standoff that left one Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy critically wounded Wednesday made their first appearance in court here today.

Thomas Lee Fairbanks, 32, was charged with 22 counts of first- and second-degree attempt murder charges for shooting the deputy, as well as various counts of assault for firing shots at other law enforcement agents during the standoff.

Fairbanks is alleged to have shot Deputy Christopher Dewey, 26, who is still in critical condition but stable at Fargo's MeritCare Hospital. Dewey was shot in the head and the abdomen.

Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, was charged with 17 counts, ranging from aiding the assaults, being in contempt of court and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Vernier told police that he was not the one to shoot Dewey.

About 80 people packed the courtroom at the Mahnomen County Courthouse for a 9:30 a.m. hearing, with about 50 law enforcement officers attending, as well as about a dozen family members of the wounded deputy.

The Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department announced Friday that they will tie blue ribbons to the antennas of their squad cars to show support of Dewey and his family. They encouraged the public to do so as well.

A benefit fund has been set up to aid Dewey's family. Donations may be sent to: First National Bank of Mahnomen, c/o Deputy Chris Dewey, P.O. Box 378, 103 N. Main St., Mahnomen, MN 56557. For more information, call (219) 935-5251.

Wednesday's events began when Dewey was about to wrap up his shift early that morning when he found a pickup that police had been seeking.

The discovery later ended with him lying on a driveway, critically wounded from two gunshot wounds. That shooting triggered the standoff with police that ended peacefully when Fairbanks surrendered a few minutes after 4 p.m. Vernier had surrendered to authorities about 9 a.m. Wednesday.