‘Just like that he had shot me’
ALEXANDRIA -- "I saw the flash out of the left side corner of my eye and I felt something hit my chest. I heard that noise and I knew right away that things had just changed."...
ALEXANDRIA - “I saw the flash out of the left side corner of my eye and I felt something hit my chest. I heard that noise and I knew right away that things had just changed.”
One year ago, on a dark rural driveway, Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Dustin Alexander was shot in the line of duty.
In just 94 seconds, he went from doing a routine vehicle check to being shot at five times.
Just before 10 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2014, a suspicious vehicle was reported in a driveway off 50th Avenue in Hudson Township, southeast of Alexandria.
“From what dispatch gave out it didn’t seem like it was anything that was too out of the ordinary, just that this car had been there a while and the homeowner wanted it checked on,” Dustin said.
He took the call and pulled up on a vehicle with two people inside.
“I walked up and talked to the driver and passenger and as I’m walking up, the passenger is on her cellphone and she says, ‘We missed our turn.’ So right away I was thinking, ‘Oh, here’s a couple that’s lost and they’re trying to figure out where they’re at. I’ll get their information and get them on their way.’ ”
Dustin got their names and birth dates and went back to his squad to check the system.
Information on the female passenger, Katie Christopherson, 29, of Fargo, came back fine but the driver, Devin Blowers, 24, also of Fargo, came back not on file. The state didn’t have record of him.
“I went back to make sure I had everything spelled right... I start to talk to him and I start going through his name and the passenger answered for him and said, ‘No, you got his middle name spelled wrong. And as she’s starting to spell it - it’s really windy, it’s really cold - so I kind of lean in a little bit so I can hear her and ... just like that he had shot me.”
Dustin’s bullet-resistant vest stopped the shot.
He said he remembers seeing the flash of the gun, feeling something hit his chest and as he turned to take cover, he fell and heard another shot.
“I just turned and aimed toward the driver and returned fire,” he said.
“After I returned fire and shot several times, I ran back to my car. I got in and I was trying to think what to do next and he shot at me again when I was in my car so at that time I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here, I gotta get some distance,’ so I went to put the car in reverse and the engine was dead.
“I finally get it started and I back up and as I’m backing up I’m not even looking back, I’m looking right at him because I wanted to know exactly what’s going on and I backed up all the way past the road and into the ditch. For some reason at that time I thought the driveway was a mile long.”
Sitting in the ditch was when he said things started to slow down a little bit.
“I start to process things a little bit and he takes another shot at me and I heard it hit the trees beside me. So I grabbed my rifle in my squad car and I get out to the back of my car and I load my rifle and do everything I have to do.
“Now, my headlights are pointing to the sky so it’s all dark. I can’t really see what’s going on, but I see another flash and hear a gunshot and he took a shot at me one more time.
“I’m trying to pick out who’s who because there are two shadows. I’m aiming down my rifle and I’m ready to pull the trigger and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell who was who. The two people ran off and I started radioing in that I’d been shot and started giving out info about where they went, what I observed, what was going on,” he said.
All of that happened in just 94 seconds.
“A lot had happened in those 94 seconds,” Dustin said. “It just seemed like it took forever.”
As he was radioing for help, Christopherson and Blowers had reportedly run up to the home and tried to get in.
The homeowners, who had initially called the sheriff’s office about the suspicious vehicle in their driveway, armed themselves.
The shooting stops
As Dustin waited for backup to arrive, he said, “I just remember it being cold and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I just want guys to get here so I have my buddies here and we can figure this out.’
“Other than that it was just work mode; what do I need to do to stay alive?”
Minutes later, deputies arrived.
“It was the best moment ever seeing those lights and hearing those sirens. It was just like, ‘OK, I can kind of breathe a little bit, we can figure out what’s gonna happen.’ ”
Dustin said he wanted to stay and finish the fight, but his co-workers got him away from the scene and into an ambulance where paramedics checked him out.
“It was at that moment I realized how close things were and I just had a two minute breakdown where I kinda realized things could have been a lot different.”
Dustin was transported to Douglas County Hospital where he was evaluated and released.
“I was so exhausted. I didn’t call my mom from the hospital. I didn’t really talk to too many people just because it was kind of an emotional time and I knew I was OK.”
After he was discharged, he went back to the sheriff’s office and waited.
“I didn’t want (Chistopherson and Blowers) to get away. I didn’t want them to get out into the community and hurt anybody else,” he said.
Law enforcement swarmed the area.
Later, a State Patrol helicopter responded to the scene and reported what appeared to be two bodies in the snow.
Blowers shot Christopherson before turning the gun on himself, according to investigators. A handgun and shotgun were recovered near the bodies. The suspects had a history of drug-related offenses.
Back to normal
Dustin was on leave for 12 days before he went back to work.
“The nights after (the shooting), I got a lot less sleep. It took a long time before some of the dreams I had would go away. There are still times I think about it but it’s not affecting me like it was before.
His first night back on duty, he said, “Just getting in that squad car - I hated being in that squad car, I really hated it. It just brought back everything of that night. I basically forced myself to drive around and do what I was supposed to do. Do my job.”
He said the support of coworkers, friends and the community was outstanding. “With something like this you get to see how much people come together when there’s a tragedy like this. Everybody was checking up on me and making sure I was OK. I got letters and cards from people I didn’t even know. It was absolutely amazing.
“You see this sense of concern in the community’s eyes and people were waving at cops, showing their support, and I want everybody to understand that’s a big role in what makes us better. It’s our community. Without their support, we can’t be as good of a sheriff’s office as we are. I think we have a good law enforcement presence and it comes down to we have a great community and all of us want to make sure they have a great place to live. I just want to say thank you.
“This was a situation someone was looking out for me, some higher power, definitely. You just look back and a couple inches different where the bullet landed and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s been a good thing to realize and believe in God. ... It helps you get through.”
A year later, things are finally getting back to normal, Dustin said, and along the way he’s been forced to learn some life lessons.
“I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to this situation because I think part of it, in my mind, was that I must have missed something. I somehow put myself in this situation and so it’s taken a long time. There are some things that are out of your control. I’ve had to take a step back and realize I can’t control everything I’d like to.”
Dustin said he plans to work his shift this Feb. 24.
“Part of me thought about taking the night off and reflecting on that night, but I think it’s best that I do my job.”
‘We’d just as soon forget’
The people who called the sheriff’s office about the suspicious vehicle in their driveway that night are still haunted by the shooting. We agreed not to use their names in this article.
They said: “Every time someone brings it up, it all comes back. It wasn’t a pleasant night.”
They watched the shooting happen.
“As traumatic as it was we’d just as soon forget it happened.”
However, they said, they want people to know the importance of being proactive, protecting themselves and always calling law enforcement when they see suspicious activity.
“We sure do appreciate Sheriff (Troy) Wolbersen - he spent a lot of time with us and settled a lot of our worries.”