Authorities are crediting a ­deputy’s vest with saving his life after gunfire erupted near an Alexandria farm house Monday night. A man and a woman from North Dakota sought in the incident were later found dead.

“It’s hard to say what would have happened if he wasn’t wearing the vest,” Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said Tuesday at a news conference. “Where he was struck, that certainly would have killed him.”

The sheriff said the two suspects — the woman was 29 and the man 24 — had no previous run-ins with Douglas County authorities. The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office is conducting autopsies. Their names have not been released, pending positive identifications from the medical examiner.

Although a news release said there was an “exchange of gunfire with the deputy” about 9:30 p.m. Monday night, authorities aren’t saying whether he killed the two. They tried to flee in a small car, “but got stuck in the snow almost immediately,” according to the sheriff’s news release.

“The suspects then fled on foot and fired additional shots.”

A State Patrol helicopter used an infrared imaging device to locate the pair in a wooded area about 200 yards from their car. When deputies approached, they found the suspects dead with a long gun and a hand gun nearby, the sheriff said.

The deputy, a three-year member of the department, is recuperating at home. He’s on standard leave during the investigation; his name was not released.

The shooting began after the deputy responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle in a driveway at 3140 50th Av. SE in Hudson Township, south of Alexandria. When the deputy made contact with the two occupants, one fired a shot that struck his bullet-resistant vest. The deputy returned fire.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is leading the investigation.

Christin Klimek lives about a mile east along 50th and noted that authorities had that stretch of road blocked off Tuesday morning.

Klimek said she’s not surprised that an unfamiliar vehicle would prompt a call to the Sheriff’s Office. “Folks in our neighborhood pay attention to things like that,” she said.

She said the husband and wife who live at the farm house have been there for many years and are “nice ­people, retired farmers.”

Several recent crimes

The shooting is one of several serious crimes in recent days in or near Alexandria:

• A Subway sandwich shop was robbed at gunpoint ­Sunday night on Broadway Street, where an employee was tied up. No arrests have been made.

• Early Tuesday, two people stole a pickup outside a gas station on 50th Avenue and led police on a high-speed chase that ended with the vehicle rolling over and the pair arrested.

• Also Tuesday, someone broke into the Douglas County Animal Hospital on Hwy. 29 and made off with medication. There have been no arrests in the burglary.


Staff writer Curt Brown contributed to this report.