‘Free citizen’ with apparent pig-shaped explosive charged in standoff in Minnesota
ST. PAUL — A “free citizen” who felt he didn’t need to obey traffic laws threatened police, who tried tearing the back door off his RV with a robot to retrieve what appeared to be a pig-shaped explosive, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
The confrontation, which resulted in a lengthy standoff Wednesday evening, began after Cub Foods called police to try to get the man out of the grocery store’s parking lot. In the end, police shut down a portion of Maplewood Mall’s ring road for more than four hours after the man fled to a nearby strip mall.
Dennis Duane Vann, 42, of Cambridge, Minn., was charged Friday in Ramsey County District Court with making threats of violence with reckless disregard for risk, and fleeing police, both felonies.
More charges could come. The complaint notes police recovered “a device from the RV that was shaped like a pig and had ‘(expletive) the police’ written on it. The pig held an energetic powder and appears to be an explosive device.”
The complaint added that further testing would be required to see if the object qualified as an explosive device under state statute.
“He said, ‘A couple of cops are going to die.’ … He made multiple references to having an IED,” said Maplewood Police Chief Scott Nadeau. “Looking at the incident after the fact, our community can be proud that our officers acted with a great deal of restraint. The hours that passed, the conversations the officers had with him, they really tried to give him every opportunity to cooperate.”
Police were first called to the Cub Foods at 2390 White Bear Ave. because managers there wanted Vann removed from the store.
Police determined Vann had a revoked driver’s license and a warrant for his arrest out of Kanebec County. They knocked on the RV’s door and no one answered. Soon after, the RV began to pull out of the store’s lot.
Police triggered their squad car lights, which Vann apparently ignored as he drove the RV to a strip mall on the east side of Maplewood Mall and stopped.
Once there, he began talking to the two officers on scene through his driver’s side window.
“When told he was being stopped because his license was revoked and he had a taillight out, Vann said he didn’t need a driver’s license and is not required to follow the traffic laws as he is a free citizen,” the complaint noted.
The warrant, issued Feb. 5, was for failure to pay child support after Vann didn’t appear at a Kanabec County court hearing, according to a court record.
“I would say my experience with the sovereign citizens is some are very well versed in that ideology, (but) there are others who just choose to not recognize the authority of the government. That overarching theme is denial of authority,” Nadeau noted.
The conflict escalated when Vann refused to leave his vehicle. When officers said they would be required to remove him from it, Vann told them “that would be a huge mistake,” the complaint said.
When asked why, he replied, “Because two people would die today — that’s (expletive) why,” and reached toward a space between his RV’s front seats.
Nadeau said the man’s words were more dire than those laid out in the complaint — and that he specifically said he would kill multiple officers.
Within the hour, police from St. Paul, North St. Paul, White Bear Lake, the State Patrol, the Ramsey County sheriff’s department and a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team arrived at the scene. The strip mall and surrounding area — though not the mall itself — were evacuated.
Between the time officers stopped the vehicle at 5:10 p.m. and the time Vann surrendered at 9:30 p.m. the SWAT team deployed chemical rounds through the RV’s windows and started to tear off its rear door, using a bomb squad robot.
The robot eventually removed curtains from the RV’s bay window and sprayed more chemical irritant inside. At that, Vann crawled out another window and surrendered.
He was in custody at an area hospital as of Friday.