The following story is reprinted with permission from the Barron News-Shield:
A stolen car report from St. Paul, a bit of modern cell phone technology, and some sharp-eyed witnesses in Rusk and Barron counties were all part of a chain of events that led to the May 31, 2018, capture of a man and woman allegedly involved in a shooting in Dunn County four days before, on May 27, according to sources in Barron, Rusk and Dunn counties.
A brief, high-speed chase that started and ended at a Rice Lake retail store resulted in the arrests of suspects Shawn Goplen, 34, Red Wing, Minn., and Kari Blank, 36, of Ellsworth, Wis.
They had been sought by police since the late-night shooting of Bruce R. Sundstrom, 48, of Colfax, on Sunday, May 27, at a rural home in the town of Tainter, northeast of Menomonie.
Their capture came after a Barron County sheriff’s deputy spotted a late model Volkswagen Jetta, with a Minnesota dealer plate, at the Dollar General Store, 710 S. Main St., Rice Lake, on the morning of May 31. The car had been reported stolen in St. Paul.
Earlier that day, authorities in Rusk County reported that a phone that allegedly belonged to suspect Blank had been “pinged” by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, and had been traced to a location near Christie Mountain (a ski resort about 10 miles northwest of Bruce).
Pierce County authorities also reported being in active pursuit of the suspect vehicle the night before.
Also on May 31, there were additional reports that someone in Ladysmith had seen the stolen car at the local McDonald’s Restaurant. Shortly before 10 a.m., Barron County dispatchers reported that the phone’s location had been traced to downtown Rice Lake.
A minute later, a sheriff’s deputy reported a possible sighting near Main and Allen streets, then reported seeing a woman going into the Dollar General store.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald ordered the county’s Emergency Response Team to be activated at 10:03 a.m. The ERT members left the L.R. Phillips Boy Scout Camp, Haugen, and headed for Rice Lake.
Meanwhile, officers in downtown Rice Lake set up a perimeter, and another officer took a position north of Cameron on County Hwy. SS, to cover that possible escape route.
The ERT was still en route when, at 10:07 a.m., the suspect car left the Dollar General parking lot and took off eastbound on Sawyer Street at speeds estimated at 90 mph.
But, a minute later, the fleeing Jetta reversed course, heading west on Sawyer before going back to the Dollar General lot. At 10:11 a.m. the suspect had his hands up, dispatchers reported. There was a brief, three-minute search in the store for the female suspect.
Armed and dangerous
The capture ended a four-day search that stretched across hundreds of miles and at least three northwestern Wisconsin counties. After the May 27 shooting, Dunn County authorites said Goplen and Blank “should be considered armed and dangerous” and should not be approached by witnesses.
According to criminal complaints filed May 29 in Dunn County Circuit Court, Goplen allegedly shot Sundstrom in the leg after an argument over methamphetamine.
The victim told police that both defendants had been staying at a home at E5955 County Hwy. D, town of Tainter.
On the night of the shooting, defendant Goplen allegedly cursed Sundstrom and accused him of stealing meth from him. When Sundstrom told the defendant he didn’t have the meth, Goplen allegedly pointed a gun at his leg and fired.
Sundstrom said that Goplen and Blank then fled the residence in separate vehicles. Before leaving, Goplen allegedly offered to give Sundstrom a ride to the hospital. He refused.
A sheriff’s deputy reached the scene to find Sundstrom bleeding and screaming in pain, He was transported to Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire for treatment.
Early Monday, May 28, Dunn County deputies returned to the crime scene to execute a search warrant. They found a bag of what later proved to be crystal meth, and recovered a spent .45 caliber bullet from the chair where Sundstrom had been sitting.
The criminal complaints charge Goplen with possession of a firearm by a felon, substantial battery, second degree reckless endangerment and pointing a gun at another person. If convicted of all charges, he could spend more than 24 years behind bars and could face fines of up to $93,500.
Defendant Blank was charged with possession of meth as a repeater and failure to notify authorities of a crime and aid the crime victim. She faces more than seven and one-half years behind bars and/or fines of up to $10,500.
Both defendants were jailed on cash bond pending initial appearances on Tuesday, June 26, according to Dunn County Circuit Court records.