Red Lake man sentenced to 37 years in prison for 2021 murder of police officer

David Brian Donnell Jr. has been sentenced to 37 years in prison for fatally shooting Red Lake police officer Ryan Bialke in 2021.


BEMIDJI — A Red Lake man has been sentenced to 37 years in prison for fatally shooting Red Lake police officer Ryan Bialke in 2021.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, David Brian Donnell Jr. was sentenced on Tuesday, Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree murder for an incident that occurred on July 27, 2021, in Redby.

David Donnell Jr..jpg
David Brian Donnell Jr.

A total of 17 members of Bialke's family, friends and former colleagues provided victim impact statements during the hearing, with deputies from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office lining two walls of the courtroom.

According to court documents, on July 27 the Red Lake Police Department responded to a call for a welfare check on Donnell at his residence. Five officers, including Bialke, arrived and found Donnell standing on his porch.

Before arriving, the officers had been notified that Donnell had an active tribal warrant. When officers began to approach him, he went inside his house and wouldn't come back outside.


Due to Donnell having an active warrant, the officers attempted to breach the house and take him into custody. After Bialke kicked the front door to get in, gunfire erupted from inside the house.

Bialke was struck by gunfire through the door and died on the scene. Donnell fled on foot but was later arrested at a nearby residence.

The Red Lake Tribal Council announced on social media Tuesday morning that a police officer had lost their life in the line of duty.

During Donnell's hearing, Judge John Tunheim stated that the 37-year sentence was “justified by a senseless crime,” and extended condolences to the family of Officer Bialke.

“When David Brian Donnell opened fire at officers on July 27, 2021, our community lost a husband, a father, a son, and a hero,” Alvin Winston, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis Division, said in a release. "Officer Bialke paid the ultimate price for his dedication to public safety, and today's sentence is a testament to the tireless efforts of our state and local partners and the Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force to ensure that violent criminals are held accountable for their heinous crimes."

This case was the result of an investigation conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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