Fleeing gunman meets his match

  • Article by: Chris Havens and Myron P. Medcalf
  • Star Tribune
  • August 25, 2007 - 11:07 PM

The assault rifle was less than 2 feet from Leland Klanderman's face, and the man holding the gun didn't mince words: "I want your car. Gimme your keys right now."

But Klanderman, who had been enjoying the view of the St. Croix River from the deck of his Lakeland home about 9 p.m. Friday, couldn't comply: His keys were inside. Being keyless may have saved his life.

Allowed to go in search of his keys, Klanderman quickly found his wife, Robin, and the couple fled; she hid in a brush pile while he ran to a neighbor's house to call police.

Authorities were already on the way, in hot pursuit of the 23-year-old Circle Pines man who had terrorized neighborhoods in two states after firing at police in Hudson, Wis. Moments later, he was in custody, subdued by Keith Radtke, a homeowner who was shot during the struggle.

Radtke was listed in good condition at Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Saturday and, although he didn't want to talk about his ordeal, authorities had a message for him: Thanks.

Sgt. Andrew Ellickson said he was convinced that if Radtke's brave actions hadn't stopped the suspect, he would have caused more damage and injuries.

"He wouldn't have been stopped," Ellickson said.

Leland Klanderman agreed: "The guy was determined."

Radtke, an attorney for Faegre & Benson, and his wife, Jody, had just put their three sons to bed Friday.

They were headed downstairs to relax when the front door flew open, according to Jody's mother, Sandy Brandt.

The Radtkes were staring at a ragged-looking man with a rifle, she said.

Authorities said the man forced Keith and Jody Radtke toward the garage.

Quick decision

At this point, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said, Radtke's world began to narrow into a "funnel."He had to make a decision," Hutton said.

When they got into the garage, Radtke saw an opportunity and pounced, knocking the rifle out of the suspect's hands.

Radtke put the suspect in a bear hug and yelled for his wife to go inside and call 911, Hutton said. She did.

Radtke didn't realize there also was a .45-caliber gun in the suspect's waistband, and the suspect was able to get a hold of it and shot Radtke in the lower back.

Radtke continued to struggle with the suspect and knocked the handgun across the garage floor. The suspect bit Radtke several times, and Radtke put him in a wrestling hold.

Nearby officers arrived at the scene, separated the men and used a Taser to subdue the suspect.

The suspect was listed in fair condition at Regions; he had also been shot earlier in the pursuit.

Shots fired and a chase

The ordeal began when Hudson police traced him to an apartment, where they tried to arrest the man on Friday night. He had been wanted for fleeing police during a traffic stop on Thursday, said interim Police Chief Eric Atkinson.

Authorities said the man had an extensive criminal history. State records show traffic arrests and charges of assault with a dangerous weapon. He hasn't yet been charged in connection with Friday's events.

The man had barricaded himself in a bedroom in the apartment, but came out with an assault rifle blazing. He got into a sport-utility vehicle and sped off.

Authorities fired back and wounded him, but he kept on going.

St. Croix County Sheriff's deputies pursued the suspect on I-94 across the St. Croix River and into Minnesota, where he turned north on Hwy. 95, then turned right and crashed into a street sign in front of the Bungalow Inn.

Washington County authorities set up roadblocks around the wooded neighborhood on the west bank of the St. Croix. Helicopters took to the air and officers were stationed in boats.

It appears the Klandermans' house, on 11th Street N., was the suspect's first stop. When the couple ran away, the suspect likely went down to the beach and ran north until he found stairs heading back up the cliff.

The suspect tried to break into one house on Old Toll Bridge Road but was unsuccessful and went next door to the Radtkes.

The hours of terror left thankful residents reflecting on their fear and good fortune.

"It was definitely a random act, but I think our sheriff did an amazing job," said Lakeland Mayor Brian Zeller.

"Our family wants to thank all of the law enforcement and medical personnel for their great work," the Radtkes said in a statement. "We're also grateful for the support of family and friends." Their children were unharmed.

A Hudson officer suffered minor injuries when shattered glass cut his right arm during the shootout.

"I feel like everything went just right," Leland Klanderman said. "For us anyway." • 651-298-1542 • 651-298-1546

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