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Deputy shot during traffic stop to join Wadena PD

The Norman County deputy shot twice during a traffic stop east of Perley last week was recently hired as a Wadena patrol officer.

Tuesday was scheduled to be Nathan Warner's last day with the Norman County Sheriff's Office, where he had worked for the past six and a half months. He was slated to start working in Wadena on Thursday. The city council approved Warner's hiring at its April 8 meeting.

Reached by phone last Thursday, Norman County Sheriff Jeremy Thornton said Warner will remain with the department until the investigation concludes.

"I have not accepted his resignation at this time and he will continue as a Norman County deputy until further notice," Thornton said.

Wadena Police Chief Naomi Plautz said she had spoken with Warner and believes he still plans to take the position at the appropriate time.

"First and foremost we are very happy and relieved that he’s okay," Plautz said. "He sounds like he’s in good spirits and he’s going to have to heal for a few days. That’s to be expected."

Steven Henderson, 19, made his first court appearance last Thursday on charges of first-degree attempted murder of a peace officer, bringing stolen goods into the state and two counts of receiving stolen property. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are all felonies.

A criminal complaint showed that Henderson and his brother had just traveled from Oklahoma to Minnesota when they were pulled over April 15 in a black Dodge pickup that Henderson had stolen the day before in Kansas or Nebraska. He had found a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun inside the glove compartment, the complaint said.

The morning of April 15, the Norman County Sheriff’s Office received a report from someone saying the pickup was suspicious. Warner found the truck, which had no license plates, and stopped it on County Road 39 near County Road 12. Henderson was driving, and his brother, William Henderson, was in the passenger seat, the complaint stated.

William Henderson, 18, had an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court on misdemeanor charges in Pennington County, so Warner placed him in the back seat of his squad car. The deputy returned to the pickup, and then headed back to his squad car. At that point, Steven Henderson opened fire with the handgun, the complaint stated.

The first round hit Warner, who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, in the back, and another round struck his portable radio on the front of his vest. The deputy grabbed his sidearm and returned fire but missed, the complaint said.

Steven Henderson drove off, and officers found him two hours later in woods near a vacant farmstead a few miles from the scene of the shooting.

He told investigators he does not remember shooting Warner. He said he recalls seeing Warner arrest his brother and then talking with the deputy. But after that, his memory is blank until he came to in the woods with the gun next to him or in his hand. Police later recovered the gun from the pickup, the complaint said.

William Henderson told investigators he saw his brother shoot at Warner. He estimated his brother and the deputy each fired eight to 10 rounds, according to the complaint. No charges have been filed against William Henderson in connection with the shooting.

Warner was treated and released at a Fargo hospital.

Norman County Attorney James Brue told the judge at last Thursday’s hearing that Steven Henderson, who attended school in the Fertile-Beltrami district, has family ties to Oklahoma. Brue said that if Steven Henderson was released on bail, he would possibly abscond and would be a threat to public safety. Henderson’s attorney, public defender Kip Fontaine, offered no response to Brue’s statements.

District Judge Jeffrey Remick set bail for Henderson at $1 million cash with conditions, $1.5 million cash without conditions or $1.5 million through a bail bondsman, with conditions.

Henderson did not have a prior criminal record in Minnesota. In North Dakota, his only conviction was for possession of alcohol as a minor, filed in 2012 in Minot’s municipal court.

He’s being held at the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston. His next court hearing is set for May 7.