Before shooting in Lake City, 282 messages and fight with ex

Gunman's shots may have just missed the 17-year-old as she fled house. She turned and saw cop fall.

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2006 booking photo: Alan J. Sylte Jr.

After the 17-year-old girl he was dating broke up with him last week, Alan J. Sylte Jr. sent her 282 messages over the weekend before fighting with her inside her family's rented house in Lake City on Monday morning and opening fire on a police officer called to the scene, according to court documents filed in the case.

Sylte, 25, later turned the gun on himself, authorities said, as he holed up in the house during what turned out to be a day-long standoff.

The girl may have narrowly escaped the gunfire. She told authorities that as she headed toward the police officer's vehicle parked out front, she heard gunshots and "felt two rounds go by her," according to a search warrant application filed in the case. When she turned around, she told them, she saw the police officer go to the ground.

Officer Shawn Schneider, 32, was shot on the right side of his head and the bullet lodged on the left side of his brain, relatives have said. He remained in critical condition Wednesday at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

The girl, identified only by initials in the search warrant applications, told investigators that she and Sylte had had a relationship since April but that Sylte had been violent toward her and she ended the relationship last week.

On Monday morning, the girl called a friend, who could hear what was happening at the house and was worried that Sylte had a gun, according to the documents. The friend contacted another person, who called police.

Schneider was shot soon after he arrived.

Officers established a perimeter around the house minutes later, and about 9 a.m. Sylte made a call on the girl's cellphone, which a phone company confirmed came from the house. He made another call on his own cellphone between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said in an interview Wednesday that officers tried to make contact with Sylte, who was holed up in the house during what became a nearly 10-hour standoff, but he never responded.

Meanwhile, students in Lake City were kept in schools and residents were urged to stay in their homes as authorities tried to figure out what happened and whether the shooter had escaped the house. Bartsh said officials now believe Sylte shot himself in the head sometime in the morning.

Bartsh and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said officials prepared search warrant applications on Monday afternoon so that once the standoff ended, investigators would be able to collect evidence throughout the house. The standoff wasn't extended while waiting for the warrants, Bartsh said.

"It had nothing to do with that; it was all tactical," Bartsh said. "Everybody's got those questions: 'Why did it take so long?' My answer, again, is no one here wants to be in a hurry to get shot. ... The other thing is we've got the technology today and we're gonna use it. Some of that technology had to come out of Bloomington."

Bartsh said authorities sent a robot camera into the house to see what was inside before officers went in about 6:30 p.m. A search warrant application describes the robot as a "tactical bobcat" borrowed from the Bloomington bomb squad.

Sylte, who was being discharged from the Wisconsin National Guard, had been trained in the use and creation of explosives as a combat engineer, according to the document.

Bartsh described Schneider as a great officer, somebody chiefs and sheriffs wanted on their staff. He was friendly and outgoing, and "absolutely knew how to do the right thing," Bartsh said. Lake City's chief and his staff are very thankful for all the support, and they will need it in the days ahead, Bartsh said.

"It gets difficult for people when they are stopped by us, and we sometimes get a lot of negativity coming back toward us," he said. "In times of crisis, when things are at their worst, the community rallied around us in a very overwhelming way."

On Wednesday night, Bartsh estimated, more than 1,000 people gathered outside Lake City's City Hall in a candlelight vigil. The group sang "Silent Night," and three squad cars left town, red lights shining, to take officers to visit Schneider in the hospital.

plouwagie@startribune.com • 612-673-7102 dchanen@startribune.com • 612-673-4465

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